California EMS Workers Deploy into Skilled Nursing Facilities

Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF) staff express their appreciation to Royal Ambulance EMTs. (Provided photo)

In its series of identifying the heroism, work, and ingenuity of EMS workers in California, the California Ambulance Association is highlighting the work of San Leandro-based Royal Ambulance. With call volumes currently dropping and a clinically qualified workforce ready and waiting to assist the charge against COVID-19, the staff at Royal Ambulance have left their vehicles behind and moved into Skilled Nursing Facilities (SNFs) to help.  

Related: California Ambulance Services Manufacturing PPE

As reported on the national news, many SNFs nationwide have succumbed to COVID-19 because of the proximity living with many staff members and patients testing positive.

“To say that COVID had a disproportionate effect on the long-term care industry would be an understatement,” said Royals CEO Steve Grau. “In six states reporting data, deaths in long-term care facilities account for over 50% of all COVID deaths.”

Royal EMTs on duty.

Royal has been an ambulance service provider in the bay area for the past 15 years and has served over 300 post-acute facilities and over that time Royal has developed strong friendships and partnerships in caring for the elderly and the frail.  

As COVID developed and spread in Bay Area facilities, Royal’s Senior Territory Manager Mac McKissack saw a local TV news report on COVID-related issues at a facility that Royal works with and after an exchange of texts identifying a staffing shortage, the first medics reported for duty.

“When we got the call from a SNF partner asking if we could help with staffing, it took me a minute to grasp the severity of the situation,” said Grau. “We quickly posted a request to care for the COVID positive patients to our internal network, and the response was overwhelming.”

The program to employ EMTs in SNFs has been named Project “Helping Hands,” and to date over 30 EMTs have staffed eight facilities in San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, and Alameda. The task at hand was to work in the role of CNA, teaming up with regular facility employees and assist with bathing, feeding, caring, and sharing love and compassion. 

“Working at the SNF, I have the pleasure to know the patients and staff more on a personal level, I learned new skills from the CNA’s, as they are the backbone at these facilities,” Royal Ambulance EMT John Chu said.

Chu reported his most memorable moment with a patient was when there was initial difficulty in getting through to the gentleman and communicating and after a couple of days, he had the patient talking.  

Project Helping Hands has brought together nurses, CNA’s, doctors, leaders, and EMS all working together to care for the most vulnerable.

“Royal saved our lives,” said Clariza Bell, administrator of East Bay Post Acute in Castro Valley. “On March 30, we started having patients and staff getting sick, including myself. We had to go home and quarantine for the 14 days. On April 9, EMTs started showing up and they have been here since today – you saved us from having to evacuate patients.”

Andrew Boyd, Regional Director of Operations for Generations Healthcare said: “We absolutely need you guys and appreciate your willingness to step up.”

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