Paramedics in Huntsville said they're seeing an increase in calls of patients with coronavirus symptoms.
“We’ve been treating disease for years and years and years, different diseases. We’ve been through H1N1 and swine flu, and those kinds of things. But, I don’t think we’ve experienced anything this widespread in a short amount of time,” Don Webster with Huntsville Emergency Medicals Services or HEMSI said.
Paramedics are using safety kits when it comes to responding to someone with coronavirus symptoms. It has a gown, a mask, a face shield and gloves to keep them safe.
“We want to make sure they’re safe by having the PPEs for them to make sure they can go home to their families, and not feel like they’re contaminating their personal lives,” Webster said.
Paramedics will only use the personal protection equipment or PPE when working with someone with coronavirus symptoms.
Webster said the patient will also be covered in a blanket and given a mask while on the way to the hospital. First responders will also contact the hospital before arriving to give them a heads up.
“We use special entrances and areas where we put patients without exposing the public,” Webster said.
Paramedics aren't using the PPEs with every patient. That's because they don’t know how long they’ll have to deal with the coronavirus, and they don't want to run out of supplies.
“We don’t know where this is going! We don’t know what the call volume or what the exposure level is going to be,” Webster said. “We’re fine now, but we don’t want to get behind the 8 ball if you will where we might have a shortage.”
Webster says there are reserves of the protective equipment kits for disaster situations. He said HEMSI is in contact with local and state leaders in case they do have to go into those reserves. But for now, Webster hopes everyone can do their part to stop spreading coronavirus.
“We’ve experienced tornados and various different disasters in our community, and we’ve weathered them. So, I think this too we will weather together. Come together, and get over it,” Webster said.
HEMSI is also adding additional staffing so they can respond to the increase of calls. Right now, they have 2 additional paramedics on call. That may change depending on the number of calls they see on a day to day basis.