EMS detail COVID challenges as 911 system close to breaking point

Coronavirus

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — The American Ambulance Association says without relief, the 911 system “seems likely to break.” Emergency Medical Technicians in New York say the strain they’re dealing with comes to an already fragile system. 

“When you have a shortage of volunteers and a shortage of paid paramedics and EMTs, it does create a level of stress on the system even in good times,” said Steven Kroll, New York Legislative Chair New York State Volunteer Ambulance and Rescue Association.

During COVID-19 times, that’s felt even more. Jeff Call with the United New York Ambulance Network says, in a lot of places, people are afraid to go to the hospital so EMTs are treating patients at home.

“We don’t get reimbursed unless we transport the patient, so we’re seeing an uptick in those calls, and we’re not being able to bill anyone because Medicare and Medicaid don’t pay for treatment in place,” Call said. 

Additionally, calls are also taking longer and so are transports.

“We’re getting on scene, we’re spending more time evaluating them, we’re trying to determine if they could or couldn’t have COVID-like symptoms, and that results in a different level of care that we provide on scene,” Call said. 

And some EMTs are getting sick themselves.

“We’re seeing entire agencies get crippled, really. If one paramedic or one EMT or one driver gets diagnosed with COVID, you’ve got to remember that everyone they’ve interacted with within the last 48 to 72 hours could potentially be exposed as well,” Call said.

The American Ambulance Association is asking for an additional $2.6 billion in federal aid for EMS.

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