FLORISSANT, Mo. — COVID-19 cases are up and so are the coronavirus-related calls to first responders.
Fire departments are inundated by the demand, such as Florissant Valley Fire Protection District:
- This time last year, Florissant Valley Fire Protection District ran 550 calls
- So far, they have 670+ calls and that number increases every 32 minutes
With every COVID transport, it requires decontamination. This takes more time and when it comes to saving lives, every second counts.
That's why Florissant Valley Fire District is now limiting transport options and will only take patients to hospitals nearby: Christian Hospital, Northwest Healthcare, and DePaul Hospital.
The reason for the pivot temporarily?
To make sure as many ambulances are available by keeping them as close to the district as possible.
"We don't have units available for life-threatening calls that might come in like heart attacks, strokes, traumas, due to the increase of COVID-related, sick-related, flu-related calls," Chief Jason Hoevelmann says. "It is the best interest of these patients to get them right to the specialty care they require and delays for transfer from another hospital can be detrimental."
"This is for the everyday routine sick calls that aren't life-threatening," Hoevelmann adds.
There are exceptions:
- Pediatric patients requiring specialty care at Cardinal Glennon or St. Louis Children’s Hospital would be a part of that
- If someone has significant trauma
- If someone needs services that these three facilities can't provide, that patient will be taken to the most appropriate facility nearby
Hoevelmann says this move will be for a short period of time.
He hopes, they can go back to a regular routine once the surge goes down.
The last time the department had to do this was spring of 2020.
The district looks out for the 75,000 to 80,000 in its coverage and Hoevelmann says this is the best option for their community.
However, the influx of calls weighs heavy on neighboring districts too, like Kinloch Fire. It's a 24/7 full-service fire protection district.
Chief Kevin Stewart shares, "It's definitely been a significant increase with this Omicron variant. A lot of times, people are just sick and they want to go to the hospital. They don’t know what else to do except call 911."
He shares almost every medical call they've been dispatched in the last several weeks is COVID-related.
Stewart also works with Northeast Fire Protection District and it has done the same move as Florissant.
"We have limited also the number of hospitals that we transport because we are extremely busy responding to other 911 calls," he notes. "I do see the transport limitations going in place in other places."
He says first responders are doing whatever they can to make sure patients are safe. Even if it's putting their own lives at risk.
"I am in quarantine right now because I tested positive for the coronavirus. I work on an ambulance as well, so I am in constant contact with people. It's just a part of the job unfortunately - have to be prepared to contract the virus, just doing what we have to do to take care of others," Stewart adds.
Stewart reminds the community, they are there to serve but you can help, too.
"If you're able to transport yourself or have private transportation and you're not in any serious distress, please take advantage of that mode of transportation and allow the 911 ambulances to be available for those who are in more serious distress," Stewart pleads.
BJC Healthcare shared this statement:
BJC HealthCare does not anticipate this will have a significant impact because patients are typically transported first to hospitals closest to home. If it is determined they need services from a larger hospital, infernal transfers can be coordinated.