PROGRESS 2021:

EMS is essential not just during pandemic

If someone you love suffers a heart attack you may be terrified, but you know it’s essential to call 911 for life-saving help.

Within minutes a small and highly trained medical team arrives at your door in a “hospital on wheels” and calmly takes charge of the medical emergency.

The Boyle County Emergency Medical Services is an essential part of our local health care system that we depend on during all sorts of medical emergencies — cardiac cases, strokes, car accident victims and patients in labor, according to Boyle County Emergency Medical Services Director Mike Rogers.

And COVID-19 patients have only added to their caseload, he said.

The service has a total of six ambulances and one EMS command vehicle. Three ambulances are on duty at the same time every day, and “commonly all three are out on runs at the same time.”

He added when that happens, he and Deputy Director Major Jon Wesley staff a fourth ambulance.

Rogers said they have six emergency medical technicians and 15 full-time paramedics that provide emergency care and transportation for patients in the 183-square mile county with a population of about 30,000.

Since the pandemic spread throughout the county last spring, Rogers said, “We have had a few months where our run numbers were higher than normal. And the virus has made making EMS runs more complicated because of the increased time it takes to decontaminate an EMS unit appropriately.”

Rogers said their biggest adjustment “was the level of personal protective equipment required on every run and transporting COVID positive patients so they could be safely moved while isolating them to not spread the virus.”

Rogers said, “We treat all patients as if they are COVID positive. We also protect our patients from us by the way we utilize our PPE on every run. ”

He added, “Every run requires an N-95 mask or higher. And, we put a mask on every patient. On known or highly suspected patients, we wear an isolation gown as well as a face shield.

It took a little getting used to moving around and working in all of the PPE, “but by now, we have had plenty of practice and it is the new normal for us. I actually think wearing a mask on every run will be the new requirement for EMS, much like gloves was in the 1980s for blood-borne pathogens,” Rogers said.

“Ephraim is our primary destination for most all patients,” he said. Ephraim McDowell Regional Medical Center emergency staff assesses, treats or stabilizes patients, then requests EMS to transfer them to another facility if need be.

“Also, we have been transporting nursing home patients to out-of-town facilities so they can help isolate COVID positive patients.” Roger said.

“Its just another example of runs above and beyond our normal call volume and another way that Boyle County EMS is meeting the needs of our community.”

Rogers added, “I’m in my 21st year in EMS. We average anywhere from 5,000 to 6,000 runs per year. That’s approximately 120,000 calls for help. It has, and always well be about the providers who risk their lives every day to help someone in need. I could never thank them enough for their service and sacrifice.”