EMS workers are at significant risk of contracting COVID-19 in the performance of their work-related duties. EMS service providers in the United States have a duty of care to ensure their employees have proper protective gear and training to minimize this risk. Employers who do not adequately protect EMS personnel negligently place these individuals at risk of a potentially deadly infection.
A Rapid, Mish Mashed Response
Coronavirus spread quickly and unevenly across the United States. Some communities saw rapid spreads, while others experienced more of a slow drip. Nationwide, EMS providers scrambled to secure personal protective equipment to help shield EMS personnel from contracting COVID-19.
However, this response was not uniform. This meant that many EMS crews were outfitted with a wide range of gloves, masks, clothing, etc. Some of the secured equipment provided no protection, some provided ineffective protection, and some were provided with no training on how to properly utilize the device.
While equipment shortages are abating, and training is becoming more standardized, there is much more that needs to be done to equip and prepare crews to provide emergency medical services in the midst of a pandemic. In the interim, it means that crews are still facing potential exposure as healthcare systems determine the most effective means of preventing transmission.
Exhaustion Creates Additional Hazards
Many EMS crews across the country have been overwhelmed with calls. Many are trained to respond to every call as a potential COVID-19 call. Long hours, extraordinary stress, and the knowledge that there is a significant risk of contracting coronavirus is creating a deadly serious situation. Exhausted EMS crews can fail to adequately protect themselves, or properly treat a patient in need of critical assistance. Exhaustion can cause EMS crews to make errors when donning personal protective gear, or make treatment errors that can negatively impact a patient’s health.
When EMS Crews Get Sick, the Community Suffers
When EMS workers contract COVID-19, or are suspected to have been exposed, they are removed from the rotation. This reduces the number of available EMS crews and further exacerbates the situation. It increases pressure and exhaustion on remaining crews, lengthens response times, and reduces the quality of care that the public depends on for their safety. As such, EMS providers who fail to properly protect their crews put not only their personnel at risk or serious injury or death, but the community as a whole.