Local ambulance staff overwhelmed, fatigued, and overworked

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LEWISBURG, WV (WVNS) — Ambulance Services within Greenbrier County are finding themselves stretched thin throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Director of Homeland Security and Emergency Management in Greenbrier County, Mike Honaker, said the Greenbrier Valley Medical Center is overwhelmed. It is at capacity in the COVID-19 ward and in the ICU.

“What that translates into is these ambulance services are just running non-stop, around-the-clock dealing with emergencies,” Honaker said. “When the hospitals become full, then you have to look, those ambulance services have to turn around and make lengthy trips even outside of their service area.”

Honaker said people have limits, including those working for ambulance services. Normally, EMS crews work a minimum of 12 hours; right now, they are working more than 16, 18, and even 20 hours per day. This is leaving them fatigued and no time for maintenance on their equipment and vehicles, and leaving no room for them to get even a cold.

But Honaker said this is not a problem that can be solved overnight.

“But the number one thing is people,” Honaker said. “And if you think about that, it doesn’t matter how much money you throw at a problem, you can have piles of money right now, but you can’t walk out on the street and hire somebody to work on an ambulance. There’s a lot of training and education and certification that goes into that.”

There are things you can do to ease their stress. Wear your mask when required, consider getting the vaccine, and do not engage in risky behavior. Honaker said when it comes to calling 911, use common sense and good judgment.

“Really, right now, the big question people have to ask is ‘Is med express or some private provider a better option right now?'” Honaker said. “Because the hospital has no alternative but to turn people away. There’s only so many beds. There’s only so much room. There’s only so much staff. There’s only so much risk they can take at this point.”

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