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‘A drop in the bucket’: FEMA to assist Meck County MEDIC due to COVID staff shortages, increased call volume

FEMA will supply MEDIC with four fully staffed ambulances for a 14-day period with the possibility of an extension.
Four units will be in Mecklenburg County for the next two weeks at least.
Published: Jan. 5, 2022 at 9:11 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 6, 2022 at 12:01 PM EST
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Two days after requesting federal help in the form of ambulance strike teams to deal with staffing shortages, increased call volume and surges in COVID-19, Mecklenburg County’s EMS agency has received approval to be assisted by FEMA.

FEMA supplied MEDIC with four fully staffed ambulances for a 14-day period with the possibility of an extension. MEDIC originally requested 25 ambulances.

“We’re very grateful for those four, but those aren’t 25. It’s just a drop in the bucket for what we requested,” a representative for MEDIC told reporters at a press conference Thursday.

FEMA will supply MEDIC with four fully staffed ambulances for a 14-day period with the possibility of an extension.

The ambulances arrived Wednesday evening and began deploying Thursday. There will be at least two units deployed from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. and two more from 4 p.m. - 4 a.m.

MEDIC says these units will operate mostly on non-emergency transports at first to familiarize themselves with the community before layering in 911 coverage. They will be utilized throughout the county.

MEDIC Deputy Director, Dr. Jonathan Studnek told reporters the need for these ambulances came from a mix of high call volumes, specifically related to COVID-19 transports, their own providers in isolation, and hospital turnaround times.

Hospitals are slowing down as more and more people are seeking emergency departments to provide COVID-19 tests.

[COVID-19 overwhelms urgent care clinics, leaves patients waiting hours, days for tests or treatment]

About two weeks ago, MEDIC was transporting four or five COVID-19 patients per day and had maybe two or three providers in isolation. Now, they’re reporting 30-35 transports per day and 30 providers in isolation.

Patients considered low equity will now experience up to a 60 minute wait time for ambulances. 911 operators will help evaluate a person’s symptoms and, when appropriate, offer a Lyft or Uber ride instead of an ambulance to help keep the ambulances free for higher-need patients.

“Our number one goal is to make sure we get to the sickest patients in the county the quickest,” said Studnek.

The public is encouraged to only call 911 for true medical emergencies, not to call for a COVID-19 test, and to avoid going to the hospital for COVID-19 tests.

“If you are having a true medical emergency, we will be there for you.”

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