COVID clinical consult line just one safety measure put in to keep first responders safe


AUSTIN (KXAN) — As COVID-19 cases remain high in Central Texas, Austin-Travis County EMS is using a system to keep their employees safe.

ATCEMS has implemented many strategies to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, employees wearing additional personal protective equipment is one way, but a COVID-19 clinical consult line is helping, too.

“We are running the collisions, the heart attacks, the strokes,” said Captain Darren Noak with ATCEMS. “We are running these COVID calls, but we are also running all the 911 calls we have always had.”

The consult line is meant to help 911 callers that may be experiencing COVID-19 symptoms reach the right resources for their condition. If a call comes in and they believe there could be a potential risk of COVID-19, the call is transferred to the consult line. The dispatcher will ask additional questions to further assess if the patient needs to be transported, how many responders need to show up and if it is possible to help in other ways without contact.

“Is there an immediate need for medical transport to a hospital, or could this condition possibly be treated or evaluated in some other manner?” Noak said.

Since March 13, dispatchers have taken 103,000 calls for service. More than 18,300 have been transferred to the consult line.

Of those that went through the consult line, 23% (4,269) of those have been declared a COVID-19 alert, Noak said.

In this case a patient has told EMS they have COVID or are experiencing symptoms.

“It is all in an effort to not only relieve EMS but also the other public safety call volume and exposures, and the hospital systems as well,” Noak said.

After each transport the ambulances are cleaned and sanitized.

There have been 1,956 ambulances called off or canceled because dispatchers were able to help in other ways. Some of those ways include talking the patient through the issue or even setting them up with a telehealth video call.

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