California medics refuse to enter care center to help man in cardiac arrest due to 'some COVID-19 law': police

An investigation into why 'responders failed to act to our Fire Department’s expectations' is underway, the chief said

Paramedics in Southern California refused to enter a post-acute-care facility to treat a man in cardiac arrest last month because of "some COVID-19 law," according to a Rialto Police Department report. 

Body camera footage shows an officer arriving at the Rialto Post Acute Care Center on the evening of Nov. 11 and greeting two paramedics from the Rialto Fire Department, who were standing outside with their masks on. 

The first 30 seconds of the footage are muted, which is standard for many police body cameras, but the officer wrote in his report that the paramedics were there for an unrelated patient and said the facility was being "problematic." 

"After a few moments, an unknown employee of the location yelled out to fire personnel ‘Please come help, he’s having cardiac arrest,'" the officer wrote. 

"Fire personnel responded by insisting the patient had to be brought outside the facility before they could provide any sort of treatment… due to an unspecified COVID-19 law."

The paramedics from the Rialto Fire Department stayed outside the care center with their masks on

The paramedics from the Rialto Fire Department stayed outside the care center with their masks on.  (Rialto Police Department)

After about a minute, the officer went inside himself and was almost immediately greeted by frantic hospital staff. 

"They are not going to come in," the officer told the staff as he started to run to the room where the man was in cardiac arrest. "They're saying it's a state law that they cannot come in."


The officer then encountered multiple staff members performing CPR and other life-saving measures on the patient. The bed he was in did not have wheels, so the officer got behind the bed and pushed it. 

"You're doing a great job. You're doing a great job. Keep going," the officer told one exhausted staff member as she continued CPR. 

The officer who entered the care facility encountered multiple frantic staff members performing CPR on the patient

The officer who entered the care facility encountered multiple frantic staff members performing CPR on the patient.  (Rialto Police Department)

As the officer navigated the wheel-less bed through the hallways, they eventually came into view of the paramedics. 

"Despite being in their line of sight, fire personnel still insisted on [redacted] being brought to them outside before they began life saving efforts and made no effort to assist me in getting [redacted] outside." 

Once they finally got the man outside, several other emergency medical personnel had arrived and started treating the man as one of the original paramedics peppered staff with administrative questions. 

The man was transferred to a local hospital and pronounced deceased about 30 minutes later. 

A staff member continues CPR outside the care center

A staff member continues CPR outside the care center.  (Rialto Police Department)

The responding officer wrote that after the incident he asked fire personnel about the law and they said it "was ‘some COVID-19 law’ which had yet to be reversed."

It is unclear what law the paramedics were citing when they refused to enter the facility. 

FOX 11 Los Angeles, who originally reported on the incident, said that the San Bernardino County Fire Chief’s Association sent out a memo in April 2020, informing departments that "all dispatch centers will be requesting the facilities to move patients to the door or outside the location."


However, the memo also said that if the patient cannot be transferred, then "one member of Fire/EMS personnel should initially interact with the patient," according to the local news outlet. 

Rialto City Fire Department Acting Chief Brian Park said that multiple members of his department have been placed on leave pending an investigation due to the "troubling video footage."

"Our Fire Department’s mission is to provide excellence in responding to medical emergencies through 'compassionate service.' As Acting-Fire Chief, I will ensure the independence of the outside investigation," Park said in a statement on Wednesday. 

"I also want to recognize and thank the Rialto Police Department and the Rialto Post-Acute Care Center nurses for their extraordinary efforts and heroism to save the patient’s life as our responders failed to act to our Fire Department’s expectations."


Rialto Mayor Deborah Robertson also said she fully supports an independent investigation into what happened. 

"The investigation will focus on the conduct of the responding Fire Department personnel and the reasons those personnel did not enter the acute care facility immediately," Robertson said. "Our prayers are with the patient’s family, as well as our police officer and care center staff who had to endure such an unimaginable situation."