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Keeping COVID down: County ambulance service continues to take precautions

By: Jeremy D. Wells
Carter County Times

 Carter County Ambulance Director Rick Loperfido told the ambulance board on Monday that his crews have continued to wipe down their ambulances after each transport, and to bring them back to the station for deep cleaning and sanitization after known COVID transports. This, along with required use of personal protective equipment (PPE) like masks, gloves and eye shields, has kept Loperfido’s entire staff COVID negative so far. 

The service did have one individual who might have been exposed to COVID-19 outside of work, Loperfido said. While he tested negative, and could have continued to work with proper PPE use, he instead chose to quarantine for 14 days. While this helped insure that no one was infected by the individual, it also led to some unanticipated overtime costs for the service in October, which was up 47 calls over the same period last year – from 445 calls to 492 calls. 

“During the month… we experienced a few days when our daily call volume went over 20 calls,” Loperfido wrote in his report, explaining that those high volume days are very stressful for the staff. 

Loperfido also updated the board on grant and other funding opportunities. He said though they were turned down last funding cycle, they are applying again for a grant from Firehouse Subs to purchase two Stryker Power-Lift stretchers. The stretchers carry a shared cost of around $34,000. Loperfido noted that finance director Valerie Nolen had also completed an application for Phase Three of federal COVID relief funding. He said they were hopeful they would qualify based on their revenue collected last fiscal year. 

While numbers are getting back to normal, as evidenced by the strong October, Loperfido said their billable runs are still down 135 calls year-to-date when compared to the total calls at this time last year. 

Loperfido also thanked the Cabell County EMS for continuing to fill their oxygen tanks while they wait for their repaired tank refill compressor to be returned by manufacturer RIX, which they expect by next week. 

“They’ve been very gracious about filling (tanks) for us,” Loperfido said. 

Loperfido also updated the board on repairs made to trucks by Pure Country Automotive and LeMaster. Loperfido said both were good to work with and that they preferred to use local repair services when possible to save on transport time and to recirculate funds in community businesses. 

In other action Loperfido updated the board on meetings with KDMC and helicopter transport service HealthNet Aeromedical Service. The KDMC meetings were a continuation of talks related to reducing transport time. This included talks about the possibility of increasing the types of issues that can be treated at urgent care facilities and about granting ambulance staff greater flexibility in determining if a patient needs to be transported via stretcher or can be transferred to a wheelchair. 

The HealthNet talks are about increasing training for E911 dispatch staff, so they can identify situations that might require helicopter lifts and dispatch them earlier. Loperfido said that in conversations with HealthNet they communicated that they would rather be en route and turn around when they weren’t needed than to have longer response times in life or death situations where every minute matters. 

Loperfido also discussed a GPS system that can be hardwired into a truck, and update when a truck is back in a service area where the satellite or cellular service can connect. Among other benefits for the ambulance service, such as tracking speeds and idle time, it can allow dispatchers to track trucks in real time and provide greater directions for reaching hard to find locations. Loperfido said the GPS service, which includes the devices, would cost the ambulance $18.95 a month per truck. 

Loperfido was also looking at purchasing a newer model used truck from an EMS service in New Jersey which he thinks he can get for less than $30,000. The Ford diesel truck has a modern, center mounted cot, and could replace an older truck which has the now discontinued older style side-mount cot. 

Loperfido said they currently have a license for seven trucks, and any four of those are on the road at any one time, with two on each end of the county. 

Contact the writer at editor@cartercountytimes.com

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