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Pennsic mayor: Decision to close Chirurgeon’s Point was entirely hers

By Peregrine Fairchylde

For the Pennsic Independent

Pennsic 35 Mayor Baroness Brise Sanguin, OP, issued a written statement late Tuesday night that confirms that she alone made the decision to place operation of Chirurgeon’s Point under the supervision of NorthWest EMS, as well as dismisses a number of rumors that have been circulating about the change. It does not offer an explanation as to exactly why the action was taken.

The Mayor also stated that she will take questions about the situation between 1 and 2 p.m. today, Wednesday, in front of the First Aid Pavilion, formerly Chirurgeon’s Point.

Also this week, the president of the Society for Creative Anachronism Inc. and the Society Seneschal each issued statements regarding the changes that shed no more light on why the chirurgeonate was removed from their traditional position at the War early on Sunday morning.

The statement by Mayor Brise – reproduced in full accompanying this article – only referred to “a number of incidences with regard to Chirurgeon care” as prompting the change. She also cited the Society Chirurgeonate Handbook as the prevailing authority for her action, noting that section III, subsection 11, paragraph 2 states, “There is no requirement that the Chirurgeonate be functioning at any event. If the Chirurgeonate is not functioning, the autocrat should know how to reach emergency medical services quickly in the event of an injury or illness.”

Contacted late on Tuesday evening before she had issued the statement, Mayor Brise said she was still not commenting on the situation, although she did at that time address one rumor that has been making the rounds of the chirurgeonate and others since last Saturday, that chirurgeons who openly discuss the situation will be made to leave the War.

“That’s not true,” Mayor Brise said flatly.

In a statement released this week and posted on the Google group on Tuesday, Duke John ap Gwyndaf, KSCA, OL, the Society’s president, confirmed that NorthWest EMS would be providing first aid services, and that “first aid volunteers” were aiding them, under the coordination of Viscountess Kaellyn mac Dermott. Viscountess Kaellyn had been the War Chirurgeon until the change; Duke John’s statement describes her role now as “volunteer first aid coordinator.”

The president’s letter did not offer a reason for the change by Mayor Brise, but did say it was “due to a number of incidences,” as reported in Mayor Brise’s statement.

Duke John further wrote that the decision to place the EMS contractor in charge “was confirmed by the three Kingdom Seneschals from the East, Middle and Æthelmearc, and the Society Seneschal.”

In her own statement published this week, Society Chirurgeon Eleanor Isabeau du Coeur, OP, of Northshield declared that all warranted SCA chirurgeons, at Pennsic 35 or elsewhere, are still just that. Reached by telephone in Northshield on Tuesday evening, Mistress Eleanor did not elaborate on the reasons behind the change.

“There were some things they wanted to check out, and [they wanted] to have the EMS take over [Chirurgeon’s Point] during that,” she said.

The Society Chirurgeon did emphasize that warranted chirurgeons at Pennsic 35 – and in the Known World at large – could still provide first aid in accordance with their training.

“They’re still officers of the SCA,” she said. “I spent a lot of time on the phone with [Duke John and Society Seneschal Aaron faheud Swiftrunner] to get that all straightened out …. If they’re working as a warranted chirurgeon … they’re still getting the same indemnification they’ve always got [under SCA insurance].”

Mistress Eleanor also said that each state’s Good Samaritan laws were still applicable to SCA chirurgeons.

“If someone is hurt in camp and Joe Chirurgeon walks by” it’s okay for them to render first aid, she said by way of example.

“Even if they don’t have the baldric on, they’re still officers [of the SCA] and can still perform. Their warrant is still good,” the Society Chirurgeon said.

The most important thing is that members of the chirurgeonate work within the system rather than outside of it, she emphasized, such as by opening a competing, unsanctioned Chirurgeon’s Point.

There have been no changes in Society policy regarding the chirurgeonate, Mistress Eleanor said, but she noted that “Pennsic is such a unique animal, honestly at this point I don’t know the implications.”

She also upheld the Pennsic Mayor’s right to make the change at the Point.

“The autocrat has the right to secure whatever services she wants,” Mistress Eleanor said. “If she doesn’t want to have chirurgeons, that’s fine.”

She added that that was her personal opinion, not a policy of her office.

Mistress Eleanor also said she had discussed with the Society president and seneschal the possibility of contracting out first aid services at large wars because of the size of population being dealt with.

“We had somewhere between 750 and 800 people come through Chirurgeon’s Point last [Pennsic],” she said. “One out of eight people were referred to EMS last year, anyway.”

“The advantage of having a professional medical contractor on site is that patients who need more advanced medical care will have quicker access to it,” Mistress Eleanor said. She also noted that attendance at large events is growing, and the Society’s populace, like the American population in general, is getting older and facing more health issues.

But, she added, a volunteer chirurgeonate also has its strong points, and using one does not necessarily rule out using the other.

“If we can do things through the chirurgeonate, great; if we can do it coordinating with EMS, great,” she said.

Mistress Eleanor said she could not answer questions about whether the EMS staff will be able to adequately cover the first aid needs for Pennsic, since she was not at the War. She does get a report from Pennsic each year that she said she would evaluate.

As for the rumors, Mistress Eleanor said she’d heard quite a few of them. Her current favorite: That her warrant was going to be revoked, she would be given a Level III banishment, and a Revocation and Denial of her membership.

“I thought that was pretty funny,” she said with a chuckle.