EMS preparing for possible surge in COVID transports

Overrunning the local health care system with COVID-19 positive patients is what most worries Boyle County Emergency Medical Services Director Mike Rogers.

Rogers told the Boyle County Fiscal Court on Tuesday that EMS crews “are seeing a lot of sick patients,” and the numbers are increasing.

On Monday, EMS made 22 runs within 24 hours, and seven of the patients knew that they were COVID-19 positive. “That’s just one day.”

Rogers said not too long ago they had only two or three positive cases a day to be transported to the hospital.

There may even be more COVID positive cases than they realize because some virus symptoms overlap with other health issues such as a heart attack or stroke which also cause chest pain and shortness of breath.

However, Rogers said, “We treat everybody like they have COVID.”

He added that he would hate for someone who was suffering from a potential life-threatening health issue to not call 911 because they were afraid of contracting the virus, either from the EMS crew or the hospital staff.

When answering emergency calls, EMS members wear an isolation gown, p-100 mask with filters, splash shield and goggles.

“It’s a little bit awkward moving around, but you get used to it after a while,” he said.

He added that the PPE protects them from the patients, and the patients from them, in case they are infected with the virus but don’t have symptoms.

Rogers said he’s thankful that the fiscal court has supplied EMS with the resources it needs to prepare for a possible escalation in positive cases.

But he added, “My biggest fear is that the pandemic escalates and overruns the health care system. That’s what worries me.”

If it does happen, though, Rogers said they have several safety nets in place, including a surge policy and a mutual aid contract with surrounding counties.

Also, the Kentucky Board of EMS is monitoring the pandemic situation. “I feel confident that we’re ready and the system we have is working.”

Ephraim McDowell Regional Medical Center is also preparing for a possible pandemic surge, according to spokesperson Jeremy Cocanougher.

He said Ephraim McDowell Regional Medical Center is adding nine more negative pressure rooms to the 29 rooms already available where COVID patients are treated. There are three more beds for COVID patients at Ephraim McDowell’s Ft. Logan and

Haggin hospitals, he added.

As of Wednesday, the unit was not full. But after the Thanksgiving holiday, the number of patients may increase substantially.

“We just don’t know, but there’s a good possibility.”

Rogers said he urges the public to “listen to the governor’s recommendations” about wearing face masks and staying away from large gatherings to prevent overwhelming the health care system.

“We can only do so much.”