Alabama first responders taking precautions to transport COVID-19 patients

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JEFFERSON COUNTY, Ala. (WIAT) — Several Alabama first responders are taking precautions as many already are transporting COVID-19 patients to hospitals for care.

Regional Paramedical Services handles calls in nine counties and crews are doing what they can to protect themselves and patients.

“Right now we have transported several patients that were actually asymptomatic, meaning they had no signs or symptoms so the concern is who has it and who doesn’t? So we are taking precautions on every patient, we’re actually putting a surgical mask on every patient,” said Eric Pendley, the Director of Operations for RPS.

Firefighters and EMTs in Pleasant Grove are also adopting similar practices when responding to patients who are exhibiting coronavirus symptoms.

“They’re going in with an N95 mask on, a gown, and eye protection and that gives them the best layer of protection,” said Lt. Tony Mareno with Pleasant Grove Fire Department.

Mareno told CBS 42 that paramedics will only send one person into a patient’s home to limit exposure. Dispatchers screen callers for possible symptoms of COVID-19.

“They’re asking them a serious of questions that will tell us when they dispatch us if there is any type of symptoms that allows us to make sure we have the correct protective equipment on,” said Mareno.

For family members who have a loved one with symptoms, it is important to write down pertinent medical history, needed medications, and contact information to be relayed from EMTs to hospital staff.

“The emergency rooms are not allowing family members to come in with the patients, and that will allow us to send that paperwork with the patient, so they can make contact,” said Mareno.

At RPS, crews are hopeful they have enough protective equipment to make it through the peak in cases that is expected in the weeks ahead.

“We’ve been very fortunate, the office of EMS and EMA has been working very hard trying to get us equipment and supplies so to say we are OK right now, is just a little unknown, so we are trying to get some calculations to see where we are at and how long our supplies will last,” said Pendley.

The Alabama Department of Public Health is getting in touch with any EMT who transports a patient who later tests positive for COVID-19.

“ADPH is doing a good job of letting us know what patients tested positive where we can make sure we didn’t have anyone exposed or if those first responders need to go in isolation themselves,” said Pendley.

Pendley and Mareno are both reminding neighbors to only call 911 in the event of a true emergency, but not to call for information about COVID-19, testing, or with mild symptoms of the virus.

“Sometimes you can get this alleviated with your own doctor or primary care physician and that saves these emergency rooms and these ambulances for the true emergencies out there,” Marenoa said.

According to ADPH, reasons to call 911 during the pandemic include: difficulty breathing, sudden or severe pain, a high fever, an allergic reaction, symptoms of a heart attack or stroke, or confusion.


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