Martinsville Fire and EMS makes adjustments amid recent COVID-19 surge

Published: Sep. 16, 2021 at 12:33 AM EDT
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MARTINSVILLE, Va. (WDBJ) - SOVAH Health said it is currently treating more than 40 patients for COVID-19 at its Danville and Martinsville campuses. In an effort to relieve some of the pressure on the hospital, Martinsville Fire and EMS made the decision Wednesday to focus the majority of its transportation services on those with life-threatening emergencies.

For Martinsville Fire and EMS, the stress from the pandemic is nothing new.

“This probably started a year and a half ago, actually,” said Fire Chief Ted Anderson.

But the last month has been even more challenging, amid the recent surge in cases and hospitalizations.

“For the last month it has become extremely stressful time-wise, manpower-wise, mental-wise.”

The Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association reports Virginia is in the middle of a more-than two-month surge largely due to the highly transmissible Delta variant. The VHHA reports daily COVID-19 hospitalizations have risen from 195 in July, to more than 2,100. That’s a 1,000% increase.

As COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have been on the rise, Martinsville Fire-EMS announced its decision Wednesday to focus the majority of its ambulance transportation on “true emergencies.”

“We’re trying to serve our citizens and part of that is educating them and helping them to understand what our service is about and what the emergency room is all about.”

Chief Anderson said their transports have been diverted all the way to Roanoke, which can put a third of the usual crew out of commission for at least four hours.

The Virginia Department of Health’s West Piedmont Health District Spokesperson, Nancy Bell, said they are seeing this all around the district, which is frightening.

“I mean if you think about diverting an ambulance from a full hospital onto the next one, what if that one’s full? Just filled up and you didn’t know. I mean you could ride the ambulance longer than is necessary under normal circumstances. So personally I think it’s a very scary time.”

For Chief Anderson, he said it’s hard to see the amount of pressure that is on his crew right now. He knows they continue to work their hardest, but right now they need a little help from the community. That mainly being that if a resident has a non-life-threatening emergency, to call their primary care provider or go to an urgent care.

Chief Anderson said dispatch will continue to assess all emergency calls like they normally do, but will provide different options to callers if their situation doesn’t meet the requirements for emergency transport. The full press release from Martinsville Fire and EMS can be found below. For more information, you can visit its website here.

“Due to current conditions affecting local hospital’s staffing and capacity within this region, patients not meeting the criteria for ambulance transport to an emergency room will be advised to see their primary care provider or be seen at an urgent care. Hospitals are operating at disaster levels, and there is limited bed capacity available. In addition, most of our hospital emergency departments are holding critical patients, which require significant emergency department space and resources that are no longer available to the emergency department.

In an effort to match patient transport needs with available resources, the Martinsville EMS system is making changes to ensure that patients with emergent medical conditions are being given transport priority while patients experiencing nonemergency/non-life threatening/non-critical medical issues are provided with appropriate guidance. If you feel you are having an emergency, call 911. EMS providers will provide an assessment of your condition and determine if you meet the criteria for transport to the emergency room. For non-emergent medical complaints, you are encouraged to seek medical treatment with your primary care provider, telemedicine, or local urgent care facilities.”

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