EMS teams swamped with non-urgent calls

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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) — Emergency management services teams are being inundated with calls. However, many of those are not urgent. At Gold Cross EMS, they have received calls from people requesting an ambulance for ear aches, because a person’s Door Dash meal was late and people needing help changing their clothes, among others.

“It’s an emergency to this person, but are these things that could have been handled in a different way?” Michael Meyers, Gold Cross EMS’ Director of Business Development, asks.

Gold Cross EMS does not refuse service to patients. However, these calls are tying up its team. They are taking away resources and time from critical and potentially life-threatening emergencies.

“They’re [EMS teams] responding, and they’re at this call. But, then someone’s having a heart attack. You can’t necessarily leave this person. So now what do you do?”

These calls are backing up emergency rooms, which are already full.

“People think just because you go by an ambulance to an emergency room, there’s level of priority to be seen. But, we take care of the most critical.”

“It’s been incredibly busy,” Dr. Richard Schwartz, the chairman of Augusta University Medical Center’s emergency medicine department, says. “We have about 135 COVID-19 patients admitted with about 44 on a ventilator. We’ve really had to make some changes on how we do our operations.”

Augusta University Medical Center has transformed part of its emergency department into an ICU unit. It is also moving some patients from the emergency department into the family medicine clinic. This has helped cut down on wait times over the last week.

“Our longest wait in the emergency department right now is about 30 minutes, which is really good considering the situation that we’re working in.”

As 9-1-1 calls continue to flood in, Meyers urges the public to consider their options before requesting an ambulance.

“Is what’s happening right now an emergency?” he asks. “Are there other options or alternatives? Is this something in which I can possibly take myself to a prompt care or regular clinic? Can I call my primary care physician to find out what’s going on? 9-1-1, I would say, is for extreme emergencies. If you can drive yourself to the E.R., you probably don’t need to call 9-1-1.”

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