In a significant development, seventeen months after a group of Orthodox women announced their plans to bring tznius to emergency medical care by founding an all female corps of emergency medical technicians to assist with labor, delivery and other emergency situations, the New York State Department of Health has given its approval to the fledgling agency.
A letter obtained by VIN News dated February 15, 2013 and signed by the Deputy Director of Operations at Albany’s Bureau of Emergency Medical Services granted the appropriately named Ezras Nashim a Basic Life Support First Responder agency code number.
As previously reported on VIN News, Ezras Nashim has devoted endless hours in its efforts to provide women with dignified and modest emergency medical care, despite criticism by some factions. Earlier plans for the women to become a separate division of Hatzalah were shelved in favor of creating a new agency and the group was endorsed by Rabbi Yechezkel Roth, a prominent halachic authority.
Ezras Nashim currently has forty certified EMTs and according to attorney Ruchie Freier who has spearheaded the group’s efforts, another twelve women are currently training to become certified. Freier herself has received EMT certification after taking the classes together with her mother this past summer.
“When I got involved with Ezras Nashim, I realized that I couldn’t advocate for these women properly without becoming an EMT myself,” Freier told VIN News.
Ezras Nashim received its first approval from the Regional Emergency Medical Services Council of New York City in late January, the first step in the process of receiving approval from the State’s Department of Health.
“Everyone, including the health department has been extremely supportive of our cause,” explained Freier. “The aspect of Jewish women helping other Jewish women was a real factor here and people saw that religious women can be go getters who are dedicated and committed to championing for modesty in a proud way.”
Ezras Nashim hopes to begin providing service in the near future and will have its own hotline and dispatcher. Medical transports will be done by a private company with the fire department serving as backup. EMTs will rotate on call 24/7 and will be met at the patient’s home by the transport service. Every EMT will carry an oxygen tank, epi-pen and an automated external defibrillator in her vehicle. Those members that do not drive will be paired up with other women that do.
“We are aware that there are many women who don’t drive,” said Freier. “And sometimes in a labor and delivery situation these are exactly the type of women you need on that call.”
Freier hopes to step up the training for her group of EMTs and will be working with two hospitals to provide an emergency room rotation program as well as a labor and delivery rotation program to provide advanced training to all personnel. She hopes in the future to set up a mechanism for frum women to train as paramedics as well.
“We still have a lot of work ahead of us,” explained Freier. “We need to plan fundraising, more recruiting and further training but we couldn’t do that until we were an official legal agency. There has been so much behind the scenes work to get us to this point and the siyata dishmaya we have had has been incredible. The Health Department, the Fire Department, even the regulatory agency all knew who we were and they have been extremely supportive of our efforts.”
The plans for Ezras Nashim were first announced on Assemblyman Dov Hikind’s weekly radio show in September 2011 and Hikind congratulated Mrs. Freier on Ezras Nashim’s latest accomplishment.
“We believe in the concept of modesty and from the beginning Ruchie Freier was concerned about displaying sensitivity to women in emergency medical situations, particularly those who are about to give birth” said Hikind.
“From day one Ezras Nashim has gone about this the right way, talking to rabbanim and people in the community. They are an example to all of us that when you fight for something you believe in, Hashem will help you.”