JANESVILLE A Janesville Fire Department battalion chief who also serves on the Rock County Board said the county isn’t doing enough to keep emergency responders safe. Ron Bomkamp said that until first responders are dispatched, they have no idea the locations of county residents who have tested positive for COVID-19. It’s affecting him personally. “I can’t believe people don’t want to protect our first responders,” Bomkamp said. “I can’t sleep at night knowing this is going on. We’re not doing everything we can to protect these people, and to me that’s just wrong.” The health department provides the Rock County 911 Communications Center with the addresses of those who have tested positive for COVID-19. Dispatchers share that information with first-responders who are sent to those addresses. “The problem is we’re not learning about places until we’re going there,” Bomkamp said. “Going to a place at 2 a.m. and finding out right then is the problem. … It’s going to get missed somehow, and this would just be another step to not miss it and helps with planning. … If it’s a fire at a nursing home of five people or 100 people, it makes a world of difference. “We’re trying to prep for the worst case scenario, and without that information, we can’t do that,” he said. “It could easily be missed the way they’re doing it to no fault of the 911 center.” The federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, otherwise known as HIPAA, is in play regarding the sharing of health information. HIPAA is intended to protect patient privacy and prevent medical information being shared by health care workers and officials. Marie-Noel Sandoval, public health officer for Rock County, has the authority to determine when and to whom COVID-19 information is released. Bomkamp said the fire department is asking to be told the hundred blocks of homes with residents who have tested positive for COVID-19 and locations of healthcare facilities with known cases of the virus. The department is asking for the information for internal use only, he said. Bomkamp said to this point Sandoval has refused to give the fire department this information, saying releasing patient information could cause a threat to the patient. The Gazette was not able to reach Sandoval for comment Monday. “Basically, what she’s saying is patient privacy is more important than the first responders’ health,” Bomkamp said. “HIPAA states if there is an immediate threat, the health director has the ability to share information with first responders. That clause is in there for situations exactly like this. That’s the whole reason it’s there.” Two weeks ago, paramedics responded to an incident at Oak Park Place before it was announced the facility had confirmed cases of COVID-19. The fire department was not notified of the positive cases, but Bomkamp said he believes the county knew the virus had hit the facility. So far, none of the first responders in that incident have exhibited symptoms or been quarantined, he said. “It’s pretty […]

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