An “ambulance strike team” of five new vehicles and crews has been assigned to Mecklenburg County to help with an increase in service calls during the pandemic, officials said.
North Carolina officials submitted a request to the Federal Emergency Management Agency on Sept. 10 for 40 advanced life support and 10 basic life support ambulances, according to the state Department of Public Safety. The state received just 25 advanced life support ambulances, each with a two-person crew of EMS providers, but no basic life support vehicles, DPS said in a statement Monday.
“These ambulances and crews will provide necessary relief to our extremely busy EMS systems,” said Will Ray, North Carolina’s emergency management director. “While it’s not the full complement we requested, we know medical resources are extremely limited across the nation right now, and we are grateful for this assistance from our federal partners.”
Mecklenburg Emergency Medical Services made a request through Charlotte Mecklenburg Emergency Management last month for three “ambulance strike teams” comprised of 15 ambulances and 30 personnel, Medic deputy director Jonathan Studnek told The Charlotte Observer on Tuesday.
Studnek said he was informed on Monday that Medic would receive one strike team consisting of five ambulances and 10 personnel. Medic’s request stemmed from an increase in daily transport volume of about 17% dating back to January when the agency handled about 294 transports a day, he said.
As of September, Studnek said Medic is handling 343 transports a day. The agency also is short 28 field providers because of a nationwide shortage of emergency medical technicians and paramedics, he said.
“We’re responding to a higher volume of transports with a lower set of personnel,” he said.
Medic has 566 employees and many have been working mandatory overtime since July.
“They’re tired and a little bit stressed,” Studnek said.
The additional ambulance crew will help with 911 calls, but it primarily will be in charge of transporting patients out of hospitals and into homes or other residential care facilities, Studnek said. This will help open hospital capacity and beds, he said.
The other North Carolina counties receiving additional ambulance crews are Brunswick (2), Franklin (2), Graham (2), Guilford (2), Macon (2), New Hanover (4), Pender (2) and Robeson (3).
Most ambulance crews will begin working within their assigned counties Tuesday, DPS said. The crew in Mecklenburg began working Tuesday morning, Studnek said.
The ambulance crews will remain assigned to these counties for 10 days. After this period, needs will be reevaluated to see if changes are needed, DPS said.