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Returning to normal: As runs increase EMTs encountering more coronavirus cases

By: Jeremy D. Wells
Carter County Times

Carter County EMS executive director Rick Loperfido reported to the EMS board on Monday that, while the service was “still down about 300 runs” for the year to date, they have been “slammed” the last couple of days, an indication, he said, that numbers are beginning to return to normal. The service responded to 476 total calls for the month of June, with 343 of those considered billable calls. They had 321 transports, 98 refusals and 26 cancelled calls. Three of those calls were DOA, six were assists or standby calls, and 22 resulted in individuals who were treated and released.  

Numbers had been lower due to fewer people on the roads and participating in activities due to COVID-19 related sheltering in place. But as those numbers return to normal, and COVID-19 cases increase in the county (see “County reports first COVID-19 death” in this issue), EMTs are coming into more contact with individuals who may be infected with the virus. As a result Loperfido has set a requirement that all EMTs must wear N95 masks when responding to all calls. 

At the end of June, he said, the service “had only transported one known COVID case.” Since July 1, however, they have transported at least five known individuals who tested positive. One of those transported, who was taken to the hospital for unrelated symptoms and only later found to be positive for the virus, may have caused a crew to be exposed to the virus. While those two individuals could have continued to work, as long as they isolated from other coworkers and continuously wore N95 masks, they chose to take unused PTO time instead. They were scheduled for testing on Monday, Loperfido said, and if those results came back negative could return to work as early as today. 

He said that in addition to requiring staff to wear N95 masks during all transports now, they are also regularly disinfecting trucks between runs. 

Loperfido also reported that the service has received a $1,000 grant from the Foundation for the Tri-State, to be used in any way that benefits the service. Loperfido said the award came from the recommendation of Commercial Bank’s Mark Strother. He said that he is currently considering using the funds to get the helipad behind the Grayson station functional, and has priced striping lights and electrical wiring to run them. He requested an additional $500 from fiscal court to complete that project. (See “Libraries, grants, and trash” in this issue.) He told the board he had also spoken with Carter County Judge Executive Mike Malone about assistance in locating a spot in the Olive Hill area where a helipad could be constructed for that end of the county. That project, he said, would have a more significant cost because it would need to be completed “from scratch.” 

He said the service is also still in the running for an Assistance to Fire Fighters grant through FEMA, and that those funds – if awarded – could possibly be used to replace the county’s faulty O2 refill system. 

Loperfido also reported on repairs to vehicles, repairs to the hot water tank and other plumbing issues in the Grayson station, and a project to clean out storage buildings at the station. He said over 80 boxes of old records, including time sheets and run sheets dating back to the 1980s, had been removed and destroyed. Any records that were less than ten years old were retained. 

He also addressed employees off for worker’s compensation and said they were looking at some strategies to lessen the impact on EMT staff for dialysis transports, which should not require an EMT. 

The board moved to accept Loperfido’s report. 

In other action the board heard from John Clevenger with Griffith, DeLaney, Hillman & Lett on their audit of the service’s 2018 financial statements. Clevenger commended the staff for their help, saying they were “quite good” at their job and very helpful. While the audit showed the service was operating at a deficit in 2018, he said the audit “looks for fraud, errors and mistakes (and) we didn’t find any.” 

Valeria Nolan, who handles billing and finance for the service, noted that the 2018 audit reflected the period when the service went from a billing service to in-house billing. 

“Going forward from this one, it should look better,” Nolan said. 

But Clevenger noted that the pandemic will impact the services finances, if only because of the impact on business taxes. 

“Your revenue will be effected by this COVID-19,” Clevenger said. 

The board approved the audit, and moved to accept Nolan’s current financial report, before adjourning. 

Contact the writer at editor@cartercountytimes.com 

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