HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – Emergency medical services are the professionals often first on scene when someone is sick or injured. And while their ability to respond isn’t affected, the COVID-19 pandemic is changing the way some first responders think when answering a call.
“Not knowing what you’re up against when you do get a call. Whether you’re going to need just a mask or full PPE (personal protective equipment),” said EMT Bobby Ramsey.
With the worry of their own health in the back of their minds, taking precautions is not only necessary but top of mind.
“I have four kids, and I really have to protect myself. Especially with a newborn. That really runs through my head,” said Ramsey.
Ramsey says the virus doesn’t take away from his duty to care for the community. HEMSI (Huntsville Emergency Medical Services Inc.) Officials tell us that patient care comes first.
“I love doing the job so it’s part of it,” said Ramsey.
HEMSI says they have protocols for both the 911 dispatch center and field crews to ask patients about the potential for COVID-19 symptoms so they know when they get to a call if they need to grab their personal protective equipment and suit up.
“911 dispatchers have certain protocols and they will ask screening questions. They may identify that a person has COVID-19 symptoms before we even arrive and then we can use the appropriate PPE precautions before we enter the scene and assess the patient,” says HEMSI Chief Operations Officer Dea Calce.
Calce says in some cases 911’s protocol doesn’t call for the screening questions or the patient might not give accurate information.
“When we get there we have asked our providers to ask those same screening questions before they go up and preform a full assessment. So when they make patient contact they can do it from six feet away before they go in,” said Calce.
HEMSI officials are taking daily inventory of their supplies and working to stay ahead of the nationwide PPE shortage.
“We’re having to reach out and look in unusual places to try to find the highest quality and the best priced items,” said Calce.
HEMSI says patients can help first responders by answering questions from 911 dispatchers honestly and having patience when crews arrive on scene and need to suit up.