Three additional emergency medical service units will soon be put into service in Carroll County for the duration of Maryland’s State of Emergency, with federal grant funds covering the cost.
Michael Robinson, fire and EMS director for Carroll County, told commissioners Thursday that 25% of county fire and EMS employees are currently on sick leave.
“We can’t say how many of them are positive for COVID, but it’s obvious what is occurring,” Robinson said. “New [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] guidelines will allow us to get these people back quicker, but we still have the challenge, with no end in sight, with wait times” particularly at Carroll Hospital.
Robinson told commissioners that a strategic review of current county EMS operations shows a 30% increase in EMS responses in the past month during peak demand hours, between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m.
“Our primary issue is that we have delays at the hospitals,” Robinson said.
EMS personnel often have to wait between two and six hours to drop off an individual at emergency departments in Carroll Hospital and other nearby hospitals, Robinson said.
A mutual aid agreement with surrounding jurisdictions places Carroll units responding to calls in other areas with a three- to four-hour turnaround time, resulting in further reduction of available EMS units.
To manage this ongoing situation and assure operational readiness within the county, Robinson requested to add three EMS units during peak demand hours.
An EMS unit is comprised of at least two employees, typically an emergency medical technician (EMT) and a paramedic, or two EMTs if a medic is not available.
These units would be deployed as necessary to assure continuity of service and to provide coverage for service gaps caused by incident volume and significant delays in turnaround times due to hospital delays.
“We’re looking at staggering these units, which will be assigned out of Westminster, Mount Airy and Sykesville,” Robinson said. “They wouldn’t necessarily stay there all day, but go wherever there are holes in the system so we can maintain consistent coverage throughout the county.”
Carroll now typically employs up to 15 units each day.
On Thursday Carroll County commissioners approved the use of Fiscal Recovery Fund grant money for adding the EMS unit staffing through the Carroll County Volunteer Emergency Services Association.
As the COVID-19 pandemic has stressed resources of hospitals and emergency medical services, Gov. Larry Hogan declared a State of Emergency Tuesday focused on maintaining health care systems in Maryland.
The EMS unit funding would last through the duration of the governor’s emergency declaration, now scheduled through the end of January.
The weekly estimated cost to operate three additional units would be $11,130 per week, based on an hourly rate per unit of $53 per hour to compensate full-time employees for overtime. The total requested amount of $44,520 is eligible to be paid for by Fiscal Recovery Funds and requires no matching county funds.
Latest Carroll County News
“COVID-19 is real … It’s not just a common cold,” Commissioner President Ed Rothstein, R-District 5, said. “People are going into the hospital … I appreciate the proactiveness and I would expect we’re going to have the same issues with our 911 center and the sheriff’s office, with people calling out sick.”