LUBBOCK, Texas — Lubbock’s recent spike in cases has been making it hard for emergency medical services to get people to hospitals and to the care they need.
Lubbock’s own AeroCare team said before the pandemic they mostly focused on transporting patients to Lubbock and Amarillo hospitals. But since COVID began their call volumes have gone up and they’ve had to fly farther just to get patients care.
“We are flying patients into different states because of bed capacity in the state of Texas,” said Lubbock AeroCare Program Director, Bobby Sanchez.
Crews at AeroCare work hard to keep up with the number of COVID related calls and flying farther distances now to get patients the care they need.
“The frequency of the longer flights now, that’s what’s different,” said Sanchez. “We are flying to hospitals that we’ve never flown to before.”
Sanchez said as more and more beds fill in our local hospitals, they’ve been having to fly patients across state lines in order to find a hospital with bed space. One time having to go as far as Iowa.
But it’s not only longer flights straining their operation. Another important factor is making sure they have enough oxygen supply on board.
“The demands on the oxygen that the patients have, it exhausts our oxygen capacity in the aircraft. We have to do a formula prior to taking a patient cause we can’t run out of oxygen,” said Sanchez.
Crew members are also wearing full PPE on every flight.
“We treat every patient as [a COVID patient] like all other healthcare facilities. We are masked, we are gowned, and in personal protective equipment,” Sanchez said. “So during the summer it’s really challenging for our teams cause we are wearing flight suits and helmets. Our teams are tired and they are hot. So it’s challenging.”
Crews even sometimes have to disinfect the plane after transporting known COVID positive patients, a process that can take up to an hour and a half.
While Sanchez said while his crews are tired, they are still doing what they can to help save lives.
“It’s very tiring for our teams. The legs are a lot longer now than what we are typically used to,” Sanchez said. “The situation is real. It is challenging and it does make for long shifts for our providers.”
AeroCare is also working to make sure their crews stay healthy. They said if one of their healthcare providers got sick, it could take them out of operation for two to three weeks.