Proactive Planning is Required Regarding Potential Ambulance Staffing Issue During COVID-19 Surge

Across the state and nation, there has been a critical shortage of employees in all industries – including EMTs and Paramedics. That requires proactive planning for alternate care response. Glacial Ridge Ambulance, like all emergency medical services across the state and nation, are experiencing significant staff shortages and a large increase in emergency calls.

Glacial Ridge Ambulance remains committed to providing full emergency medical services in the communities it serves. As of December 3, 2021, Glacial Ridge Ambulance is still operating as usual and has contingency plans in place that include restructuring the way they respond. These plans provide the most equitable emergency services to all residents for optimal response time in the most efficient way.

Staffing – EMTs, Paramedics, and EMRs Needed

Emergency medical services (EMTs and Paramedics) have always been structured to provide the most efficient coverage for communities. Currently, when the ambulances stationed in Brooten and Starbuck don’t have two staff on duty to respond to calls, the ambulances and staff go to Glenwood to complete a two-person crew for the response to those areas. If both of the ambulances from Glenwood are out on calls or transfers, then the ambulance from Starbuck or Brooten may be stationed out of Glenwood for a short time to cover the ambulance’s service area from a central location.

A long-term solution to the emergency services staff shortage would be to train and hire Emergency Medical Responders (EMR) to drive the ambulance and assist the EMT with patient care on scene. This can be a part-time position, allowing the person to work whenever they are available, and Glacial Ridge Ambulance pays for the EMR training. Additional EMTs and Paramedics are critically needed, and GRHS pays for the training as well. Glacial Ridge Ambulance is hiring for part-time and full-time positions. Contact Jenna Janu, HR Manager, at 320-634-4521 for details.

Extreme Increase in Numbers of Patients

There has been a significant increase in the number of calls and people needing ER care and in the number of COVID-19 positive patients. This has been the reality for the past several months. Hospitals that GRHS would typically transfer to for certain medical emergencies are beyond capacity and only take patients on a case-by-case basis. This is statewide and based on severity. Most patients are being cared for at local hospitals for longer periods compared to pre-COVID hospital volume due to the lack of beds and staff at other hospitals.

When a hospital bed becomes available at a hospital that can provide a higher level of care, ambulance staff are traveling further distances, which removes them from the service area for up to eight hours at a time. Therefore, one ambulance and the EMS crew are not available for a local call, and the contingency plans are utilized until their return.

Vaccinations and Boosters Have Never Been More Critical

For hospitals and health systems, vaccination is especially crucial from a public health perspective. “Increased vaccinations among health care personnel will not only reduce the spread of COVID-19 but also reduce the harmful toll this virus is taking within the health care workforce and those we are striving to serve,” said Susan R. Bailey, MD, the American Medical Association’s immediate past president.

Booster shots are extremely necessary as hospitals are seeing fully vaccinated patients without a booster being admitted now when this was not the case several months ago.