AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin-Travis County EMS is still working to boost its staffing levels, as 67 sworn staff members are out due to COVID-19, the department said Friday.
Of those 67 medics, 48 have tested positive for the virus, and 19 are awaiting test results. The department said Thursday it’s sustained 20% or more of medics not being able to report for duty daily over the past week.
Because of these stats, ATCEMS said Thursday it’s moving to Level 2 of its “Operational Readiness Level,” or an escalated response. Under this level, several actions can be taken to stabilize operations and boost staffing.
Efforts to bolster staff levels for field units include:
- Calling administrative staff from several areas (Academy, Community Health Paramedics, Continuing Education, Fleet and Facilities, Public Education and Special Events) to work field assignments
- Placing the BLS Academy on hold for two weeks, and starting Monday, using cadets to help support staff
- Canceling community outreach events and reviewing special events for staffing and possible cancelation
- Suspending Blood Draw at the Travis County Jail
- Suspending new vacation requests until Jan. 29 (ATCEMS will approve unlimited Find Your Own Coverage (FYOC) during this period)
- Extending the ability to receive Call Back Worked for additional time worked until Jan. 29
In addition to those measures, ATCEMS will also review demand unit staffing on a daily basis to ensure all 24-hour units are adequately staffed and continue to use the Designated Medical Officer (DMO) or Community Health Paramedic on-duty to fill schedule holes.
All of these actions can be scaled up or down based on how staffing conditions change, ATCEMS said.
The Austin EMS Association expressed concerned about staffing late last month, when it revealed one out of 15 medics either were positive with COVID-19 or were suspected to be positive. Leadership with ATCEMS at the time began requiring healthy staff members to be on call “24 hours a day with no relief” and work “a record amount of mandatory overtime shifts.”