How is EMS Coping with COVID-19?

EMS COVID-19

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The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has caused large amounts of disruption world-wide, and EMS is not immune.

Emergency Medical Services worldwide have been heavily impacted on by the pandemic, and the effect this is having on first responders is, in many cases, immense.

We surveyed 81 EMS personnel from around the world to find out how the pandemic has affected them. This is what we learned.

60.5% of those we surveyed reported that the pandemic has had a negative impact on their mental health, with over 35% of those people stating they do not have adequate access to Mental Health professionals to discuss their concerns or receive counselling.

“The call volume for our service has not increased as of yet but the anxiety of what a crew will face has increased 10 fold. Crews have no idea if their next call will be the one that makes them sick and potentially bring this virus home to their family. Mental health of providers has suffered so much. It is the hardest time I have seen in my 16 year career in EMS. I worry constantly for my crews, their safety, and their health.”

Anonymous (Survey Respondent)

Another disturbing figure is that 30.9% stated they do not currently have enough PPE to protect their health while treating patients.

“For a while we didn’t have enough PPE, technically we are still having to use masks for 10 patients, but at least we have gowns, masks, tyvex suits, etc. I think it’s taken a toll on my mental health though. I work extra shifts, never see family, and when I do go home I’m treated like I have the plague.”

Anonymous (Survey Respondent)

Of the responders we surveyed, only 14 of them had been isolated due to exposure or suspected exposure to COVID-19 due to their EMS work. Of those 14 people, the majority (8) were not paid for this time off.

“I’m 33 years old. For the first time ever, I felt the need to discuss having a will made out with my family. It hit me that if I get sick, I might die. Alone. And I need to make sure my affairs are in order.”

Anonymous (Survey Respondent)

One good thing that has been caused by the virus is that 54.3% of those we surveyed have reported decreased demand on their EMS Workload. This is likely to be due to less traffic on the roads and more people staying home.

“The call load for calls not related to covid-19 have reduced. Does this mean those calls did not require an ambulance?”

AJ, EMT/FF (Survey Respondent)

Despite this drop in demand, many providers are working extra shifts.

17 respondents are working 0-10 extra hours per week
10 respondents are working 11-20 extra hours per week
5 respondents are working over 20 extra hours per week

In regards to the precautions EMS agencies are taking, we received this comment:

“I truly believe that most “precautions” employers are taking are for the legal protection of the company and not for the employee. This is nothing new, it’s desk jockeys or non-medical providers making policies. E.g. My company requires temperature checks before shift. There is no mid shift or end of shift check. I guess I’m learning fevers show up when you clock in.”

Raul, Paramedic (Survey Respondent)

It’s clear from the results of this survey that EMS is struggling due to the Coronavirus Pandemic. Mental Health, Safety and Morale are all key areas impacted upon, and EMS Agencies need to take additional steps to help their employees through this period.

If you need to speak with someone about your mental health, visit our need help page for information on free resources in your country.

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