Alabama EMS workers battle Omicron, staff shortages and emergency room waits


BIRMINGHAM, Alabama (WIAT) – A growing number of COVID cases statewide is putting additional strain on our health care system and is affecting emergency medical services.

Hospitals and EMS workers encourage the public to avoid emergency services unless it is a life-threatening situation to help hospitals open beds for ambulance teams.

However, as the Omicron variant increases, doctors are finding it harder than ever to avoid catching the virus on their own as they help those in need.

“In some cases, we are seeing labor shortages of up to 10-20% of people with COVID-related symptoms and / or positive tests. We need to fill these positions through overtime and other incentives to keep the correct number of ambulance hours on the road, ”said Brett Jovanovich of Global Medical Response, Inc.

To help keep ambulance services fully staffed amid the COVID outbreak, Jovanovich says recruiting efforts are a top priority with competitive salaries and additional incentives for current employees.

“We will pay them a salary to go to school, we will pay for school and when they come out they will be trained and licensed by emergency medical technicians, and they can get in ambulances and manage transport,” Jovanovich said.

Limited staff is not the only obstacle ambulance services currently face, they also have to wait hours in hospitals due to the lack of emergency beds.

“Before COVID, it took 15 to 20 minutes. Now it takes more than two, three or four hours and the negative impact on that is that it locks up ambulance resources in the emergency department and it delays those resources to be able to return to the communities they serve, ”said Brent Dierking with Northstar EMS Inc.

One way the community can help alleviate the stress EMS workers face is by knowing when to call 911.

“You know, if you’re just sick and it’s not a medical emergency, these are the times when you have to pick up the phone and call your doctor or go to a clinic, we don’t need to immobilize. emergency departments that take care of real critical patients, ”said Dierking.

Another reminder is not to call 911 for COVID testing or if you have mild COVID symptoms. Instead, contact your primary care physician or go to an emergency care facility for these services.


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