Cox, Mercy EMS seeing more COVID-19 related calls

Published: Aug. 2, 2021 at 7:44 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Cox hospital lists a record number of coronavirus patients. And with the continued surge in hospitalizations, comes an increase in 911 calls for patients needing emergency help.

Cox’s EMS manager, Ryan Verch, says at the start of the pandemic they were getting more potential COVID-19 positive calls. However, in the last few months that’s taken a turn, with more people now calling who know they have already tested positive for the virus.

“As time goes by they start developing shortness of breath, continue to get sicker and then they’re calling us because they’ve taken a turn for the worse,” Verch says. “They’re calling us to be transported in to get help.”

Verch says all day long the hospital is dispatching paramedics to calls related to COVID-19.

“We’re setting records on our call volume,” Verch says. “We haven’t seen volumes like this. It’s just continued to rise with the resurgence.”

At Mercy, EMS deputy director Luke Walker says they’re seeing a combination of calls from confirmed positive cases and people who are showing symptoms. Walker says it’s not just affecting ambulance crews emotionally, it’s also putting a physical strain on them.

“When our frontline EMS providers are out there in N95s and gowns and goggles and all of those sorts of things and there’s a heat index of 110, it certainly wears on you,” Walker says.

Mercy’s call volume is up about 8% over this time last year, getting around 100 calls per day.

Walker says that’s why the state strike team’s arrival was so crucial. The strike team helped transport patients that would have taken local ambulances out of the area.

“An hour, two hour, three hour turn around time and that really leaves the ambulance in the community to take care of this increased 911 call volume that we’re seeing,” Walker says.

Verch says Cox is staffing extra ambulance crews to help with the increased number of calls. The state strike team has helped the hospital keep it’s response times from being impacted.

“When you take one patient on a four hours to St. Louis, that’s an eight hour, nine hour round trip for one ambulance crew that they’re spent with one patient,” Verch says.

Mercy says many of the patients the strike team transported to other cities for the hospital did not have COVID-19.

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