LUBBOCK, Texas — As Lubbock hospitals see a spike in coronavirus hospitalizations, paramedics are fighting to keep up with climbing COVID-19 numbers.
“It is taxing on the first responder, because it takes us a little bit of extra time, it’s a lot, a lot more wear and tear,” said Training Chief for UMC EMS, Chad Curry. “We’ve definitely seen a big uptick in calls and in signal 100 calls so we have to make sure again, our crews are having to dress a lot more.”
Signal 100 is the code EMS dispatch uses when a patient has coronavirus meaning paramedics must suit up to protect themselves. But with the recent surge in cases, EMS said they have had to respond in full PPE for more than just signal 100 calls.
“Sometimes we get calls saying, ‘I think I have COVID’, we may have some just say, ‘I think I have a respiratory infection’, we may have something to say, ‘I just have a really bad headache’. And with those are all being signs, we have to take those legitimately on each call. So it has been taxing on our staff,” said Curry.
An N-95 mask, a tyvek suit, latex gloves, and a face shield, are now all part of a paramedic’s uniform.
“It is a lot, but patient care, patient safety comes first,” said Curry.
After every patient paramedics disinfect themselves and the ambulance to make sure not only them and their patients are safe, but their families as well.
“My exposure is a risk that I know is part of this business, it’s a part of my job. But that’s not for my family, they didn’t sign up for that,” said Curry.
But Curry said it can be stressful to face so much potential exposure to COVID-19 on a daily basis.
“We understand that’s a risk,” he said. “It’s no different than a risk of, you know, being injured on a call, you know, god forbid, we want that protection and not have that, but it’s definitely [a risk factor] that we take.”
Curry said wearing a mask and washing your hands can help keep you from ending up in their hands.