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Combating COVID: EMS implements decontamination programs

By: Jeremy D. Wells

Carter County Times

 Carter County EMS are performing decontamination steps between each run; doing wipe-downs with disinfectants to combat the possible spread of COVID-19 between patients, just in case they’ve transported someone who didn’t know they had the virus. In cases where they are contacted by the hospital and alerted that the patient they transported has tested positive for COVID-19 they do a further decontamination step. In addition to wiping down with disinfectant, any vehicle that has knowingly transported a COVID patient is taken out of service while it undergoes a sort of fumigation with a disinfectant mist, director Rick Loperfido told the board on Monday. 

EMS’s new UV sanitizing light that can be used to disinfect trucks between runs. (Photo by Jeremy D. Wells, Carter County Times) 

However, these disinfecting practices, in addition to longer wait times at hospitals as they take more time to disinfect between accepting new patients, have had an impact on turn-around time between runs for the service, Loperfido told the board. While these are necessary steps as the service transports more COVID positive cases, Loperfido said he is looking at ways to decrease that time. One of the things he’s talked with King’s Daughters Medical Center about is increasing the capacity of the KDMC Urgent Care Facility in Grayson. He has another meeting scheduled with the hospitals CEO about the possibility of increasing capacity at the facility and working toward the creation of a “free standing ER in the Grayson area,” he said. This could help not only calls out of Grayson being routed to KDMC, but also calls out of Olive Hill. While those calls are typically routed to Morehead, some could be sent to a Grayson ER instead. 

This standalone ER would be beneficial because wait time has increased at all emergency rooms, Loperfido explained to the board, not just as KDMC. Runs to St. Claire are also taking longer, he said. The result is “wait time at various emergency rooms increas(ing),” he said, and, “increased (time) in getting our patients off our cots and transferred to their facility.” 

As a result, he said, sometimes crews don’t even make it back to the station before they get another call. This is why it’s important for crews to wipe their truck surfaces down with disinfectants immediately after dropping off a patient. The issue is exacerbated when it turns out the patient was COVID positive and crews – who are still wearing protective masks and shields – and the vehicle needs to be taken out of service for the fumigation disinfection. 

Loperfido updated the board on the oxygen system as well, noting it looks less likely the service will receive FEMA funds for the purchase of a new oxygen refill system and that there is still no update on the current oxygen refill system, which is in the hands of the manufacturer for repair. 

Helipad lights on the county helicopter landing pad in Grayson are now installed and functioning as needed, Loperfido told the board, with he next step striping the pad. The service is also still looking for areas in the western half of the county that can be used as a helipad site for emergencies there. 

Loperfido circled back to vehicle disinfection to discuss a UV lamp the ambulance service recently received from the regional healthcare coalition. He said each member service in the region had been awarded one of the lamps, which can disinfect a truck by being placed in the vehicle and turned on for five minutes. The light produced by the lamp kills bacteria and viruses on surfaces that are exposed to the light, he said. While the lamp will not serve as a replacement for wiping vehicles down with disinfectants or for the mist disinfection, it will be used as an extra disinfection step. He said they are also looking at options for getting a second lamp for the EMS Station in Olive Hill as well. 

In other action Loperfido reported on an ambulance that suffered an accident involving a deer in the road that caused damage to the door and front grill. He said the body shop working on the ambulance, LeMaster’s Body, believed they could use parts from out of service vehicles to repair the damage. Loperfido also reported on recent computer upgrades in the office which have resulted in better networking and productivity and other vehicle maintenance. 

He said the service had also received a recent email related to another round of available COVID funding and were looking at applying for reimbursements under that program. 

After accepting Loperfido’s report the board also moved to accept run reports and financial reports as presented. The run report showed that calls were up slightly over September in 2019, at 454 total calls for 2020 to 448 for September 2019. 

September income, as reflected in the financial report, was $142,216.50 and expenses totaled $176,428.85. Payroll accounted for 97.27% of expenses, at $158,362.04. 

In old business the board discussed the director’s vehicle replacement and took a look at advertising for bids on unused 400 watt sodium lamps, with the board approving a request from Loperfido to advertise for bids on the lamps. 

In new business the board went into executive session to discuss employee issues with no action taken. 

Contact the writer at editor@ cartercountytimes.com 

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