LOS ANGELES (CBS) — Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa Wednesday ordered L.A. Fire Department Chief Brian Cummings to stop withholding basic information about department responses to medical emergencies.
In a letter to the fire chief, Villaraigosa directed Cummings to “immediately resume releasing information that provides LAFD incident specifics without violating federal law.”
“At a time when the Los Angeles Fire Department needs more transparency, not less, I am directing you to immediately resume releasing information that provides LAFD incident specifics without violating federal law,” Villaraigosa’s letter went on to say.
Cummings had issued a statement late Tuesday announcing the department would not disclose data such as incident locations and injury information in order to conform with the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, a medical privacy law.
KNX 1070’s Claudia Peschiutta reported the reaction after Chief Cummings said the department would be limiting certain public information to conform with new health care legislation.
Claudia Peschiutta’s Exclusive Interview With LA Fire Chief Brian Cummings
City Councilman Mitch Englander, who chairs the Public Safety Committee, questioned the sensibility of the new policy and called a special committee meeting in order discuss the issue and other problems facing the LAFD.
“I understand patient protection, I don’t understand why we can’t release information, and I think it’s bad timing,” said Englander.
The department policy began over the weekend, when the LAFD stopped providing locations for emergency calls such as fires and traffic collisions.
On Tuesday, the department had sent out a media alert that it had doused a house fire, but failed to provide a location of the blaze. A department spokesman later declined to provide a location on a collision between a food truck and a car in downtown Los Angeles, citing the new policy.
The department appeared to ease up on the policy slightly today, providing a street name and block number where an electrical fire occurred, and confirming an evacuation that took place at West Adams Preparatory High School west of downtown due to a nearby electrical problem.
Public Safety Committee Vice Chair Jan Perry called the new policy “shocking,” adding that “it’s critically important on major incidents to share location information.”
The special committee meeting is scheduled for 2 p.m. on Thursday.
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