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Dealing with Medical Emergencies at Church

Ambulances parked by a hospital ER

The last Sunday in June of this year, my husband and I arrived early at church to get ready for the morning activities, and I had just finished setting up music for the morning as members of our small congregation began to arrive.  I was at my seat and saw one of the sweet older ladies in our congregation going down the aisle to her seat. One minute she was moving forward and suddenly fell to floor in an unconscious state.  Fear completely gripped me as I ran over to her.  My  husband and her spouse were with her and trying to get a response from her.  I immediately assessed that she was breathing and dialed 911 to assist in getting her the medical attention she needed.  She was transported by ambulance and EMT workers determined that she had suffered from very low blood sugar.  Needless to say, we were all relieved to know she had recovered, but that's not where the story ends.

In her fall, our church member chipped and fractured a shoulder and is currently undergoing treatment for this injury.  When I approached she and her husband about reporting the accident they were adamant that the church should not be involved.  Because of my insurance background, I explained that there is a certain protocol that must be followed in dealing with injuries at church.  This has been a learning experience and wake up call in making certain there is a plan in place for such events that can leave everyone shaken.

The first lesson I believe our church learned is that there should be a team of appointed persons to handle a crisis.  It was essential that someone with some First Aid /CPR training be available to determine what type of treatment to administer.  Many of our members were concerned and gathered round her but this created a barrier for the medical personnel to get to her.  A team should consist of trained individuals for treatment and assessment of illness or injury and an appointed person who will make the 911 call in a timely manner.

Another important aspect of dealing with this situation is to understand the importance of timely reporting to the insurance carrier.  In our case, the individual is a Medicare recipient but was unaware that Medicare will only pay in excess to any other coverage that may be available.  In fact, insurance carriers can be fined for not making payment on a claim in a timely manner.  This is true of other government -based care so it is best to just always file a report with the insurance carrier.  Medical payments coverage is available under most property and liability package policies and this coverage will apply even if the church was not liable in any way for the injuries.  One way to assure timely reporting of an incident is to always have a Notice of Injury form on hand to complete and get to the agent or carrier.  This will help to make the process smoother.

One more learning aspect of this experience is that your leaders must know how to respond in a way that can bring calm to an otherwise terrifying incident.  We were quick to assure the other church members that this lady would be receiving the best of care and she was conscious by the time she left the sanctuary so the people were able to focus on the services after the shock of such an event.  No one wants to think about this type of event occurring during church services, but having a plan helps to address and control medical emergencies on the church premises.

Loomis Insurance producers have access to sample forms, risk management articles, and suggestions for developing response teams for medical emergencies.  We are happy to provide guidance to you and would welcome the opportunity to work with you and your church congregation.  Call us today.


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