This is National EMS Week.

Sunday's Colorado story of EMS dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic is from Scott Sholes, EMS Chief, Durango Fire-Rescue in southwestern Colorado.

My greatest fear is for the safety of our staff. Not only that they can contract COVID-19, but they can take it home to their family. Our greatest effort has been protecting our EMTs and paramedics. I want them to feel safe and be safe. Because of this, I worry about our supply of PPE and the burn rate — the rate at which we use PPE.

How are you and your crewmates personally handling this pandemic?

Durango Fire-Rescue EMS crews are taking all this in stride and are happy to be helping. This is our “new normal” and we are taking it in stride. Personally, I am working from home and feel guilty. Guilty that I am safer than our on-the-street people. It’s like the MCI plane crash and I cannot help.

What is most troubling to your EMS agency?

The shortage of PPE is most troubling. And we have taken a significant financial hit. Our normal call volume has dropped. We have lost $170,000 from Qtr 1-2 2020 compared to Qtrs. 1-2 2019. Fortunately, we received the first round of Medicaid supplemental funding that we (EMSAC at the state legislature) passed last year.

What has been the best about your pandemic response?

The responsiveness of our organization and the collaboration of our community. EMS knows how to “stand up and make it work.” We know how to adapt. It is great to see how our people have accepted this as “the new normal.” We just kicked in and got it done!

What is the most surprising?

I am very surprised by the number of people out there that can not comprehend basic facts and are swayed by misinformation. We have so much scientific information. This is not the first pandemic in history, but it is the first pandemic when we have such a free flow of information. I am surprised that people have an “I don’t care about the troops” attitude.

On the other hand, I was not surprised we did not have enough PPE. But I have been in EMS for 40 years and planning for pandemics for a long time. I knew the back-up of the National Strategic Stockpile would not be enough. But, all the people I planned with are now gone and we have new people.

The long-lasting story of this COVID-19 pandemic and the EMS response is going to be a lack of PPE and the serious financial impact of it to EMS. We are going to be talking about it for a while.

Return to EMS Week 2020 page