This is National EMS Week.

Monday’s Colorado story of EMS dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic is from Matt Concialdi, EMS Chief, Platteville-Gilcrest F.P.D. in western Adams County.

What is your greatest fear?

My greatest fear is running out of PPE. Especially running out of PPE leading to a crew member getting sick.

How are you and your crewmates personally handling this pandemic?

Our battalion chiefs are great at checking on everybody in the stations and making sure everyone is doing well. Through our HR department, we have peer counseling available to everyone all the time. They’ve said, “Your mental health is important to us. We are here for you.” They have sent to everyone guides with points that really help, such as taking time to play with pets and staying away from social media and news reports that continually bombards us. They have also shown us resources for mental health support available through the district’s insurance company.

What is most troubling to your EMS agency?

There are two most troubling effects of the pandemic. First are the social restrictions. We are a small, “family” agency. Maintaining 6’ apart and wearing masks means we can’t get together to train. And second is the information overload. It’s like drinking from a fire hose. It is overwhelming. Our people want black and white, but we now live in a gray area. We’ve been forced into an “adapt and overcome” mindset.

The restrictions on normal patient care, because the normal protocol limitations are the most difficult aspect of EMS care today. We can’t do a nebulizer or CPAP or a tube. We can’t do everything that would help in caring for a patient. Putting on the brakes and restricting treatment is damaging all the way to the core.

But, our community’s involvement has been the best thing about this pandemic. They are so excited when we run a birthday parade by a house! And the community has rallied behind us with lots of little things, like cookies and cards. Their support is great!

The lack of crucial PPE — N95s, Tyvek suits, gloves has really surprised me. We are reusing and not burning through a lot, but the system just cannot make enough.

What has not surprised you?

I am not surprised that our call volume has dropped. Callers are self-triaging and only calling us when we are needed. They are using the system wisely.

Our community and county are great. The district’s residents have brought treats, cookies, offered to sew masks for us— it has been an outpouring of support. It really helps with morale. And Adams County has the best support systems for us.

Our system to track the health of our staff has been an uplifting experience. Through tracking daily and strict measures to get someone to a doctor the same day, we have swiftly taken care of two members that became ill. They were negative. We take care of each other!

What do you think will be the long-lasting EMS story coming from this pandemic?

It will be the post-911 effect that we have now. I will long remember those birthday parades with an ambulance and a fire truck and how happy it made a child.

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