Governor Andy Beshear announced this week that more than half the hospitals in Kentucky are reporting critical staff shortages as COVID-19 cases surge. That’s resulted in a lot of patient transfers to wherever beds and staff are available.
To help ease overburned emergency response teams, Kentucky has recieved three Federal Emergency Management Agency strike teams to assist wth patient transport so local EMS crews have more time to respond to all types of emergency calls.
One of the three FEMA strike teams that arrived in Kentucky a few days ago was deployed to the assist in Pulaski County. Each FEMA team has five ambulances and at total of 10 EMTs and paramedics.
Somerset Pulaski County EMS Chief Steve Eubank said calls related to COVID now make up a good percentage of the daily runs. So, he said it’s been helpful that the FEMA team is now handling some of the patient transport.
“Throughout the pandemic there’s been some staffing shortages at EMS across the state. Of course, we’re not immune to that either,” said Eubank. “So, whenever we make a transfer from our local hospital to Lexington, Louisville, Cincinnati, Nashville, Knoxville, any one of those takes one of our emergency crews out of service from four to six hours.”
The increasing number of hospitalized COVID patients and the state and national shortage of nurses, as well as other medical professionals, has caused unusually long wait times at emergency rooms and often requires transport to hospitals in other parts of the state, or sometimes in other states.
“Currently we’re taking them to wherever they can find a bed. We recently went to Morehead and Winchester,” said Eubank. “I was talking to some of the other directors in this area and they’d went to Florence recently. We went to Nashville, UK, well, all the hospitals in Lexington and then many hospitals in the Louisville area, as well.”
The Somerset Pulaski County EMS has 80 employees, six ambulances and makes 13,000 runs a year.
Two other FEMA strike teams arrived in Kentucky on Aug. 27 to assist in the Prestonsburg and Louisville regions.