As hospitals grapple with diversions, Pittsylvania County EMS volunteers endure added burden | Local News

Complications surrounding hospital hijackings add an additional burden to emergency volunteers serving in rural southern Virginia.

The issue was recently discussed on Pittsylvania County Happenings — a podcast produced by county spokesperson Caleb Ayers — by Chris Slemp, Pittsylvania County Public Safety Director and EMS Coordinator Kasey Seay.

Hospital hijackings occur when a facility is no longer able to accept patients. Although still available to provide emergency and life-saving care, another hospital must be found to admit the patient.

“We’re starting to see a big influx of 911 and EMS calls,” Slemp said in the recent podcast.

“We now have situations where multiple hospitals could be a diversion, so someone could be driving from the southeastern part of the county for up to an hour and more to get to a hospital that is well above the northern part. of the county,” Ayers said.

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As a result, Ayers said it makes the call longer and compels even more people to commit to volunteering. He also said the problem had gotten worse since becoming a noticeable problem around October.

Full hospitals in addition to staffing shortages are among the biggest problems facing the county, Slemp said.

“We’re starting to see it here having a really major impact,” he said. “Early in the fall, we went through a similar situation, and then it kind of calmed down. But it’s back with the resurgence of this new variant of COVID.”

Slemp noted for a few days in previous weeks that everything within an hour of the county was rerouted, including areas like Martinsville.

“We’re still taking patients because we have nowhere to go,” Slemp said, Seay adding that it can take anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours just for a hospital to take in one of a team’s people. EMS.

As a result, emergency vehicles are tied up waiting for patients to be accepted by hospitals.

“This ambulance, this crew, they can’t go and answer any other calls,” said Slemp, who added that EMS services are heavily dependent on volunteers who answer more than 90% of calls. “It becomes a major impact for us.”

Slemp said staff members now have to muster other teams to cover their areas while volunteers travel further afield to find an available hospital.

“A volunteer agency could have had four EMS calls in less than an hour,” he explained. “So now you’re bringing in trucks from other parts of the county to respond to these calls and these ambulances are still waiting at the hospital to unload patients.”

However, he does not blame health systems for the current struggles.

“It’s not the fault of the hospitals,” he said. “It’s just the nature of the beast going on right now.”

Seay believes the cause of the hospital hijackings is the result of a nationwide shortage of healthcare workers and the recent spike in COVID-19 cases.

“Instead of being broken down with a call in an hour, you now wait two to three hours for that truck to go back into service to answer another call, but that does not affect the treatment that volunteers and career staff provide,” she said.

In order to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 among volunteers and staff, Slemp constantly reminds workers to treat every patient as if they are COVID-positive, “even if you are there because someone is sprained his ankle”.

Slemp also noted that a resident should only call an ambulance in an emergency.

“Hospitals are just flooded, and if you’re going to go there, you have to be prepared,” he said.

“We have more calls that we take in an ambulance that are put in the waiting room than we’ve actually gotten completely brought back to a bed,” Seay said.

Slemp agreed that people had to be patient with nurses and doctors because of their overwork and overwork.

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