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What is the Heart Bill?

The Heart Law presumption, commonly called the “Heart Bill” presumes that a police officer’s heart ailment is work-related for purposes of accidental disability retirement, unless there is sufficient evidence to rebut it.  In other words, if you have a heart ailment (e.g., you have a heart attack), you are entitled to accidental disability retirement benefits unless the entity opposing the presumption can provide “competent evidence” proving that it was not work related.  Even if there is absolutely no evidence that the impairment is work-related, the presumption stands.  Attempts to overcome the presumption by pointing out numerous risk factors such as high cholesterol, obesity, or smoking arte typically unsuccessful because the mere existence of risk factors does not in and of itself rebut the presumption.  The impact of the risk factors must include substantial evidence of how the risk factors affected the individual.

Even in the event that a heart ailment could not be said to have arisen in the line of duty, Massachusetts law provides that if a pre-existing condition is accelerated as a result of a hazard on the job, causation for the injury is established, even if the pre-existing condition is not work-related.  For example, court cases have ruled that a police officer’s hypertension was exacerbated by normal police duties and thus work-related and that a fire fighter’s degenerative disc disease was exacerbated by working on a fire truck and thus work-related.

Furthermore, if you have a collective bargaining agreement that applies the Heart Law presumption to “injured-on-duty” leave, you may be entitled to 111F leave if you have a heart ailment and decide to go back to work.  For example, if you have a heart attack and take 4 weeks to recover, you may be entitled to receive 111F pay for that time period instead of being forced to use your sick days.  You should contact your union representative if you believe this may affect you.


Effective July 1, 2012, dispatchers must be trained in the Emergency Medical Dispatch Protocol Reference System (EMDPRS).  EMDPRS is a system that “includes a protocol for emergency medical dispatcher response to calls, including structured caller questioning for patient condition, incident facts, and scene safety, pre-arrival instructions, post-dispatch instructions, selection of appropriate field resources to dispatch (such as first responder, basic life support, and/or advanced life support), and a continuous quality assurance program that measures compliance with the protocol through ongoing random case review of each emergency medical dispatcher.”  560 CMR 5.03.

In other words, if you answer 911 calls, you must be EMD certified.  This new training involves a process that is much more detailed than before.  Dispatchers will have to provide pre-arrival instructions and dispatch life support in compliance with written text of scripts and other processes within a Department-approved EMDPRS.  So, every request for medical assistance will involve the dispatcher following a set of policies and procedures for the safe and effective use of the Department-approved EMDPRS.

Furthermore, under these new regulations, each EMD resource must establish a continuous quality assurance, improvement, and management program that, at a minimum, must include: documentation of the quality assurance case review process utilized to identify EMD compliance with the EMDPRS; written approval of the EMD medical director; ongoing random case review in accordance with the guidelines of the EMDPRS; and regular feedback of performance results to emergency medical dispatchers.  In other words, there is the potential for liability and discipline.

If you are a dispatcher and are (or will be) in negotiations, I would advise that you raise these new regulations at the table when bargaining.  They add significant responsibilities and duties to your job.  Although it is mandated by the State, the Department should recognize the added work you are doing.

If you are not a dispatcher (e.g., a patrol officer) but are being asked to comply with these new certifications, call your union representative to discuss the probability that these new duties could be a change in your working conditions and thus should be bargained.