EpiPens’ discontinuation at summer camps draws ire from parent
March 19, 2013
By Peter Clark
At least one parent will choose to send her child to Bellevue summer camp instead of Issaquah because of the city’s policy on epinephrine administration.
Terri Compton Hintz’s 5-year-old son Gavin has a severe allergy to peanuts. He must always have an EpiPen nearby in case he comes into contact with them. She wanted to send him to Issaquah’s summer camps, but was frustrated to learn that the parks and recreation staff would not be able to administer the shot in an emergency.
“They were so good about it last year,” Hintz said. Though the Parks & Recreation Department said it could not administer the shot, one of the staff volunteered to take care of Gavin should the need arise. “They changed their policies in the fall and it was really frustrating.”
Essentially, the city said that while Gavin could certainly bring the EpiPen along, they did not have the malpractice insurance to cover the liability of injecting the boy.
“It’s unlike a nurse on duty at a school,” city spokeswoman Autumn Monahan said. “Kids go off in groups all over the city, and it would be really difficult to have someone trained to go with them.”
In response to her concerns, the city invited Hintz to attend with Gavin at no charge.
“That kind of defeats the purpose of camps,” she said.
In her search to find an alternative, Hintz found a viable solution with the city of Bellevue.
“They were the exact opposite of what we got from Issaquah. We just had to sign a form,” she said. “They were so accommodating.”
“It’s the insurance company that is calling the shots,” Parks & Recreation Director Anne McGill said.
Though officials would be glad to train their staff on the administration of EpiPens as first aid, she said Issaquah insurance provider Washington Cities Insurance Authority refused to grant them the liability. “WCIA told us if we used an EpiPen and the child still goes into anaphylactic shock, they would not defend us in court. The city is sticking with WCIA because that’s what we can afford.”
McGill said a difference in resources between the neighboring cities allowed Bellevue the opportunity to offer the protection.
“They are certainly a much wealthier city than Issaquah,” allowing self-insurance to protect against malpractice lawsuits, she said.
Though she said she regretted the lack of services, McGill said the Parks & Recreation Department continues to serve the city, and camp enrollment numbers are increasing. On the first day of registration for summer camp, she said organizers saw an enormous increase; the camp welcomed 57,000 signups compared with 37,000 on the first day of registration last year.
“We have a real positive impact on people’s lives here,” she said.
Hintz was able to enlist local allergy advocacy groups to join her in confronting the city. Both No Nuts Moms Group and Washington Feast have taken up the issue. They reached out to the City Council and State Sen. Mark Mullet, of Issaquah, to bring attention to the limitations the rule places on the parents of allergic children. The groups even offered to teach EpiPen administration to city employees.
“I hope they change their policy for other people here,” Hintz said.