VIENNA — With hospital emergency rooms often overwhelmed as COVID-19 illness fluctuates, local fire departments are doing what they can to help by looking at alternatives for non-essential services.
Vienna fire Chief Richard Brannon said all county fire departments received information this winter from the Trumbull County Fire Chiefs’ Association / Emergency Management Agency.
Cortland fire Chief David Rea, president of the TCFCA, in a letter to the departments, stated he and Emergency Management Agency Director John Hickey met late last year with local hospitals about patient loads and delays. He said the hospitals had requested some help to decrease the number of patients being transported to the emergency departments for non-essential services, such as COVID-19 testing and minor problems that can or should be treated at home.
Fire departments were advised that crews can speak to people about what they can do at home to remedy the complaint, or to contact primary care physicians.
Fire Capt. Eric Ginn said situations where an ambulance is needed to take someone to a hospital are chest pains, shortness of breath, stroke and any trauma.
Brannon said limited staffing and ambulances create more of a problem at smaller fire departments, such as Vienna, with one or two ambulances running.
“If we have an ambulance running and then it gets tied up at a hospital for two or more hours, now we are shuffling to get to other calls with one ambulance,” Brannon said, noting that a patient with a non-life threatening issue can seek a different route.
Renee Waldo, emergency medical service coordinator / paramedic, said non-essential illnesses or injuries should contact their family doctor or go to urgent care instead of calling an ambulance to a hospital where there may be an hour or more wait.
“We recommend that for non-life-threatening symptoms to go to a doctor and not the emergency room. We would never refuse to take anyone no matter what the concern is to the hospital — but they have to understand there will likely be a wait.”
She said both locally and nationally this winter at Trumbull Regional Medical Center and St. Joseph Warren Hospital the emergency rooms are very busy with COVID-19 and other serious health issues or injuries.
“We have had different waves of periods of longer delays than other times. The omicron variant has created so many problems in January and February,” Waldo said.
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