FAIRFIELD COUNTY, S.C. — The pandemic is complicating efforts of EMS staff, a workforce tasked to respond when seconds matter.
As intensive care units fill around the state, Fairfield County EMS Director Mike Tanner said they're in constant communication with hospitals to confirm there's enough room before taking patients.
Meanwhile, their own call volume is increasing, "over the last six months about 18 percent," Tanner said. "We’ve noticed an increase in respiratory calls, and flu-like, and coronavirus-like symptoms.”
Three years ago, the hospital in Fairfield County closed.
Only a free-standing MUSC Health-led emergency room remains.
While it can assist with many emergencies, patients requiring the advanced care of a full-service hospital have to be taken elsewhere.
"If it's a true coronavirus case that's going to need admission, that automatically sends us to Columbia or another surrounding-area hospital. So that increases our transport time by at least about 20 or 30 minutes. So, that keeps that unit out of our area for even longer.”
Despite this, Tanner said they're managing well.
"Our call volume is usually pretty low, so the impact hasn’t been as great,” he said.
MUSC Health said they're seeing high volumes of patients, both COVID and non-COVID related.
"Our free standing Emergency Department in Fairfield is able to assess and treat illnesses of its patients based on acuity," a statement from the system said. "With our Northeast hospital location in close proximity, we are easily able to transfer those patients with higher acuity there for further treatment. We are equipped to operate with high patient volumes but we continue encourage the community to aid in reducing the prevalence of COVID-19 by continuing to wear masks, avoid large gathering and get vaccinated."
Director Tanner agrees.
"Hopefully, we can get this pandemic behind us," Tanner said. "Get more people vaccinated and get the number of patients that we see on the downward trend.”