Hennepin Healthcare officials will ask an independent panel to review recent instances of its medical responders sedating people with the drug ketamine, following a report that called into question whether Minneapolis police pressured paramedics to administer the drug.
The hospital’s chief medical officer, Dr. William Heegaard, held a news conference Friday afternoon responding to a Star Tribune story that included excerpts from a draft report authored by staff from the Minneapolis Office of Police Conduct Review.
The report included transcripts and descriptions of police body camera video that showed officers requesting ketamine by name. It questioned whether officers inappropriately influenced paramedics, sometimes in situations when the person being drugged was already restrained, and on multiple occasions leading to serious complications.
Heegaard said that in April, EMS personnel reported to hospital leadership that police were pushing them to use ketamine.
“Our EMS personnel were concerned about maybe some pressure or discussion that police may be asking us to administer ketamine,” he said. “It was unclear, and the concerns were taken very seriously by our leadership and our medical director.”
The hospital reviewed the cases and later sent a response to Minneapolis police. In May, police command staff issued an administrative order to officers saying they must not suggest or demand that paramedics use sedation.
Five of the cases mentioned in the draft report involved Hennepin Healthcare paramedics, but three involved other Twin Cities first responders, said Heegaard.
Heegaard said his staff has reviewed the cases and believes EMS workers acted appropriately, but the hospital will ask the Quality Committee of the Hennepin County EMS Council to review the cases to ensure that “medical appropriateness as well as professionalism has been maintained.”
“We believe it fits within our protocol, but we understand the concern,” he said. “We’ll have it reviewed again.”
Heegaard said he’s seen the draft report, and hequestions the accuracy of it, including its descriptions of complicated medical procedures. But he hasn’t had access to case materials, such as body camera videos.
Hennepin Healthcare has been studying ketamine for decades and has been using it since 2008, Heegaard said.
He said ketamine sedations were used in less than 0.1 percent of EMS transports last year. He said it can be useful in treating a condition that can be fatal known as “excited delirium,” in which a person exhibits violence and extreme agitation.
“We’re acutely aware that we are here to serve the public,” he said. “I think especially our EMS personnel are aware of this. They act, and we are acting, with the trust of the public. We believe in that trust, and our first priority is the safety of our patients.”
Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo and Mayor Jacob Frey said this week that police must leave medical decisions up to EMS professionals. But in a statement Thursday, Arradondo cautioned that the draft report from the police oversight office was “inaccurate.”
Also in a statement Thursday, Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights Director Velma Korbel, whose staff compiled the draft report, said, “Changes must be made in consultation with medical professionals and [Minneapolis police].”