WEDWORTH – TOWNSEND PARAMEDIC ACT

During the 1960s a Los Angeles cardiologist named Walter S. Graf became concerned about the lack of actual medical care being given to coronary patients during emergency transportation to a hospital. In 1969, while serving as president of the Los Angeles Chapter of the American Heart Association, he created a “mobile critical care unit”, consisting of a Chevy van, a registered nurse, and a portable defibrillator. The same year Los Angeles County Supervisor Kenneth Hahn persuaded the Board of Supervisors to approve a pilot program to train county Firefighters as “Mobile Intensive Care Paramedics”. A change in state law was necessary to allow personnel other than doctors and nurses to render emergency medical care. Hahn recruited two state legislators who wrote the Wedworth-Townsend Paramedic Act of 1970, signed into law by Governor Ronald Reagan on July 15, 1970, despite opposition from doctors, nurses, and attorneys. Paramedic training began the next month at the Freeman Memorial Hospital under Graf’s direction. It was the first nationally accredited paramedic training program in the United States.

This is the original law as signed by Governor Reagan.
Note the short duration of the act. It has been amended many times since it was enacted into law.


An act to add Article 3 (commencing with Section 1480) to Chapter 2.5, Division 2 of the Health and Safety Code, relating to paramedics, and declaring the urgency, to take effectimmediately.

[Approved by Governor July 14, 1970. Filed with
Secretary of State July 14, 1970.]

The people of the State of California do enact as follows:

Section 1, Article 3 (commencing with Section 1480) is added to Chapter 2.5, Division 2 of the Health and Safety Code, to read:

Article 3. Mobile Intensive Care Paramedics

    1480. Any hospital operated by, or contracting with, a county with a population of over 6,000,000 may conduct a pilot program utilizing mobile intensive care paramedics for the delivery of emergency medical care to the sick and injured at the scene of an emergency, and during transport to a hospital, while in the hospital emergency department, and until care responsibility is assumed by the regular hospital staff.
1481.  (a) As used in this article “mobile intensive care paramedics” means personnel who have been specially trained in emergency cardiac and noncardiac care in a training program certified by the county health officer or the director of hospitals designated by the board of supervisors and who are certified by the officer as qualified to render the services enumerated in this article.
(b) As used in this article “mobile intensive care nurse” means a registered nurse who has been certified by a county officer designated by the board of supervisors as qualified in emergency cardiac care.
1482. Notwithstanding any other provision of law mobile intensive care paramedics may do any of the following:
(1) Render rescue, first-aid and resuscitation services.
(2) During training at the hospital and while caring for patients in the hospital administer parenteral medications under the direct supervision of a registered nurse.
(3) Perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation and defibrillation in a pulseless, nonbreathing patient.
(4) Where voice contact or a telemetered electrocardiogram is monitored by a physician or a certified mobile intensive care nurse where authorized by a physician, and direct communication is maintained, may upon order of such physician or such nurse do any of the following:
(a)Administer intravenous saline or glucose solutions.
(b)Perform gastric suction by intubation.
(c)Administer parenteral injections of any of the following classes of drugs:
(i)Antiarrhythmic agents.
(ii)Vagolytic agents.
(iii) Chronotropic agents.
(iv) Alkalinizing agents.
(v) Alkalinizing agents.
(vi) Vasopressor agents.
1483. No physician or nurse, who in good faith gives emergency instructions to a paramedic at the scene of an emergency, shall be liable for any civil damages as a result of issuing the instructions.
1484. This article shall remain in effect only until the 91st day after final adjournment of the 1972 Regular Session of the Legislature and shall have no force or effect after that date.
1485. This article shall be known and may be cited as the Wedworth-Townsend Paramedic Act.
Sec. 2. This act is an urgency statute necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health or safety within the meaning of Article IV of the Constitution and shall go into immediate effect. The facts constituting such necessity are:  There is a critical shortage of professionally trained medical and nursing personnel for the delivery of fast, efficient emergency medical care for the sick and injured at the scene and during transport to a health care facility. Improved emergency service is required to reduce the mortality rate during the first critical minutes immediately following an accident, or the onset of a serious physical condition such as an acute myocardial infarction.  Pilot project of the type provided for in this act are required in order to develop and evaluate a program for the provision of the best and most economical delivery of emergency medical care.

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