ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) — Calls for help are on the rise at ambulance districts across the country as the pandemic continues. The American Ambulance District is warning the federal government that the emergency response system will buckle if additional assistance is not provided.
“Call volume has been an interesting thing to examine during this time frame,” said Kyle Gaines, the spokesperson for the St. Charles County Ambulance District.
Call volume was down pretty significantly in the spring and summer with more people staying home. Since fall began, Gaines said call volume has been picking up and has now surpassed what it was during the same time in 2019.
Added costs for PPE and staffing have been the biggest challenges, Gaines said.
“Whenever we have a team member, a paramedic has to quarantine, or is positive themselves, that position can’t go unfilled. This is not a situation where we can just work one short or two short or take a truck out of service,” said Gaines.
During one shift earlier this fall, 11 of the 46 employees were not able to work.
From July through September, overtime costs were up 112 percent this year compared to the same time frame in 2019.
The American Ambulance Association is asking the Department of Health and Human Services for $2.6 billion to prevent the emergency medical system from buckling during the pandemic.
The group said that would give each department that is a member $43,500, which includes St. Charles County Ambulance District.
“Our use for that would be just like it was for the first round it would go toward those staffing needs that arise,” said Gaines.
Gaines said because his department is not private and is partially funded by tax dollars, the department can survive even if the pandemic is prolonged.
He is worried about the smaller, rural departments that rely more heavily on people using their ambulances.
“We’ve been a little bit more well positioned to weather it, not saying it hasn’t impacted our overall budget in a pretty profound way because it certainly has,” said Gaines.
Copyright 2020 KMOV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved