Mayor: Chirurgeons overstepping certifications reason for change at Point

By Peregrine Fairchylde

The questions were pointed and sometimes angry, and the responses did not always satisfy the crowd, but tempers remained largely in check during an hour-long public meeting held Wednesday afternoon by Pennsic 35 Mayor Baroness Brise Sanguin, OP, outside the First Aid Pavilion, formerly Chirurgeon’s Point.

And in response to the foremost question on the minds of many there– exactly what had transpired to cause the mayor to turn over operation of the Point to NorthWest EMS – though Mayor Brise remained unspecific on the details, citing privacy issues, she did say that some chirurgeons at the War had “exceeded [the] authority” of their mundane first aid certifications, which had given her “grave concerns” and led to the action.

“We had gotten to the point it wasn’t one or two people,” she said. “It was chronic.”

At that point, Viscountess Kaellyn mac Dermott, who was the War Chirurgeon for Pennsic 35 and is now coordinator of first aid volunteers for the War, added: “It’s because I couldn’t police it fast enough to answer their concerns.”

Starting at 1 p.m., Mayor Brise and Viscount Viscount Edward Zifran of Gendy, the emergency deputy mayor, took more than 30 questions over a little more than an hour from a crowd that started at about three dozen but ultimately swelled to more than 75 gentles, most of whom appeared to be chirurgeons: Red hats, leeches and fleams were abundant. Despite the heat, the crowd stayed almost undiminished until the mayor ended the session shortly after 2 p.m.

Judging by the crowd’s reaction, the most promising answer provided by the mayoral staff was to an inquiry as to whether the reports regarding the incidents that led to Mayor Brise’s decision could be released after having confidential personal information removed from them.

“You’ve brought up a good point,” said Viscount Edward. “Allow her some time to actually give this thought and consult with some folks and consider this possibility.”

Mayor Brise also reported that the personal medical information that had been removed from the Point previously was back in the hands of Viscountess Kaellyn.

After the meeting, Master Caelin on Andrede, OP, of Ansteorra, the Deputy Society Chirurgeon, said the records had been removed and placed in his possession according to procedure laid out in the Society Chirurgeon’s Handbook and no request had been made to him for those records until late Tuesday night, at about 10:50 p.m.

During the public session the question “Why?” was brought up again and again.

“Now that you have put 10,000-plus people at risk, can you please explain the reason so the rumors stop and we all have a clue?” asked Master El of Two Knives.

“I have not put anyone at risk,” responded Mayor Brise. “We have EMS taking care of triage … we are fully staffed, we have doctors, we have paramedics, we have first aid people.”

The other major question that, judging by crowd reaction, was not satisfactorily answered dealt with the question of liability protection for warranted chirurgeons who volunteer as first aid helpers, the U.S. Volunteer Protection Act, and Pennsylvania’s Good Samaritan law. While the mayor and her emergency deputy both insisted the protections were in place, some in the crowd contested that position. Viscount Edward asked one questioner to provide a copy of the U.S. Volunteer Protection Act so it could be reviewed and a more satisfactory answer provided.

Mark the Faceitous, a heavy fighter and chirurgeon who identified himself as a mundane family practice physician, said that “we’ve always appreciated having EMS back up the chirurgeons,” but asked the mayor if she was comfortable having non-SCA persons providing first aid, given the unique issues the chirurgeonate is used to dealing with, such as armor extraction.

“We are in a different position than the mundane world,” he said.

“Yes,” Mayor Brise responded to whether she was confident in the ability of NorthWest to handle such situations. “We have SCA individuals involved in this.”

Another gentle asserted that, as a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, the SCA and the Pennsic War were subject to the federal Freedom of Information law, and that minutes of meetings – such as any that led up to the announcement that EMS would run Chirurgeon’s Point – must be made available to the public. Viscount Edward countered that, saying that such minutes “would be under executive session,” and thus exempt from disclosure.

The question of money donated to the Chirurgeonate Fund was raised, and Mayor Brise said that money would carry over to next year’s War to be used to purchase supplies, as was usual practice. This prompted a query as to whether the chirurgeonate would be in charge of the Point again next year, to which the mayor replied, “That’s up to next Pennsic’s mayor,” Baroness Rosamund Beauvisage.

Another gentle asked whether NorthWest EMS was reimbursing Pennsic for supplies they use that had been purchased for the War; she said that anything they used was being replaced. Master Iustinos Tekton, called Justin, a former War Chirurgeon, added that supplies were purchased for the war with money already part of the event’s general revenue, and further that he had no problem with the EMS personnel using the supplies on hand.

Mayor Brise also told the crowd that no additional money was being paid to NorthWest under the contract they have with the War.

A question about whether chirurgeons in training (CITs) would be allowed to work shifts during the war led to some brief confusion. Viscount Edward has replied to the gentle that, “We’ll have to take that up with the senior chirurgeon staff.” But this prompted another question: “Is there a cirurgeon staff?”

“Here is the thing,” His Excellency replied. “Yes, there is no active chirurgeonate on site. That does not mean you’re not warranted chirurgeons. There is not active chirurgeonate activity. Whatever rules and procedures you folks have are still in effect.”

“[But] not as an organized part of the Pennsic staff,” added Mayor Brise.

Toward the end of the meeting, Lord Yehuda ben Maimon, who has worked as a chirurgeon at Pennsic the past 10 years, pointed out that the mere fact so many gentles showed up to the meeting was a good sign.

“The whole reason you’re here in the heat is because you care,” he said. “I think we all came here because we want the answers and unfortunately we can’t have them today.... We all want to make that decision ourselves, but we have to ceded that authority to the mayor.”

Then, turning to Mayor Brise, he entreated, “Please promise there will be more information later.” In response, she said she could only promise to try and get more information out.

After the meeting, Viscountess Kaellyn said she felt that first aid service was going “very, very well” under the new arrangement.

“The EMS and the doctors have been working like demons. I worship every one of them,” she said. “They’ve been doing far more than they were expected to do here.”

But though she has some volunteer first aid helpers, she said she would very much like to have a dozen more to get through the end of the war.

“We can figure out what happened and what could have happened better after Pennsic,” Her Excellency said. “Right now, we need to concentrate on giving first aid to the populace. I understand completely what the chirurgeons feel – I’m one of them. And I don’t feel [ill will] against any of them if they don’t feel they can come back. But I would like to see some of them work out the differences and come in and help us out until the end of the event.”

Deputy Society Chirurgeon Caelin said in an interview after the meeting that he differed with Mayor Brise’s interpretation of the Society Chirurgeon’s Handbook when it came to the authority to remove the chirurgeonate from operating at the War.

“What it [the handbook] says is you can have an event with no chirurgeonate,” he said. “It doesn’t say you can remove the chirurgeonate.”

He cited section III.9, General Policies, which reads in part: “Any Chirurgeon who is available and willing to provide first aid at an event can not be prohibited from doing so by anyone other than the Kingdom Chirurgeon or a duly-delegated administrative superior in the Chirurgeonate (e.g., a Chirurgeon-in-Charge at an interkingdom event).”

“They’re choosing very small segments out of context,” Master Caelin said.