The High Point Enterprise, N.C.
Guilford County emergency crews are getting temporary help from the federal government, which has provided three ambulances and two-person medical crews to help answer the increased number of calls because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The units came from different areas and arrived Monday night. Their crews learned more about the county’s operations Tuesday and were to start running calls on Wednesday, according to Scott Muthersbaugh, deputy public information officer for Guilford County emergency services.
“We are definitely seeing an uptick,” Muthersbaugh said. “We are still responding to all of the normal medical and trauma calls. Those haven’t gone away. With the impacts of COVID and the delta variant stacked on top of that, this is really welcomed to help that bump in call volume.”
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Also on Wednesday, the Triad’s three major health systems issued a joint statement saying the recent spike in COVID-19 cases because of the delta variant is straining emergency departments, and people should go to hospital emergency rooms only for true life-threatening emergencies. People should consider virtual care, their primary care doctor or urgent care clinics for noncritical care, according to a news release from Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist, Cone Health and Novant Health.
“Conditions such as ear and eye infections, skin problems (minor burns, rashes and insect bites), cold/flu/allergy symptoms, muscle or joint pain, cuts, or injuries where X-rays may be needed, can best be cared for in doctor’s offices or urgent care clinics, and in many cases, can be triaged or handled entirely through a virtual visit,” the release said.
Those who come to the emergency department for problems that are not life-threatening can expect to wait two to three times longer than they would have before the COVID-19 pandemic, the release said. Many people are arriving simply to seek COVID-19 testing that should be done elsewhere in the community.
However, people who think they are having emergencies, such as heart trouble or a stroke, should seek immediate help, said Dr. Chad Miller, chair of emergency medicine at Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist.
“If you experience chest pain, trouble moving an arm or a leg, trouble speaking, or have a traumatic injury, you should call 911 immediately or go to your nearest emergency department,” Miller said. “We know that seconds count and even the slightest delay in getting care for heart attacks, strokes and other true emergencies can lead to lifelong disability or death.”
The extra ambulances and crews Guilford received were among 25 provided to nine North Carolina counties by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Each ambulance came with two providers, including at least one paramedic per unit, Muthersbaugh said. The ambulances will be used countywide and look different than other Guilford units but follow similar protocols and operate through the county’s 911 system.
The ambulances and crews are guaranteed to be here for at least 10 days, he said.
“That’s their initial assignment,” Muthersbaugh said. “They are on a 30-day deployment, so there is a chance they will either stay here longer or they will be re-deployed based on where the need is and what their marching orders wind up being.”
FEMA also assigned ambulances and crews to Brunswick, Franklin, Graham, Macon, Mecklenburg, New Hanover, Pender and Robeson counties.
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