Macomb Township Chronicle — An area medical service recently provided insight into how its operations were impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the July 14 Macomb Township Board of Trustees meeting, Kolby Miller, Medstar Ambulance chief executive officer, presented to the board about the status of the township’s services.

“As you can imagine, 2020 was a year that was dramatically affected by the COVID pandemic,” Miller stated. “Here in Macomb Township, our emergency service area was significantly impacted by the impact of our personnel.”   

He noted that a lot of people walked away from emergency services careers last year and some are struggling to remain in the field after the year that it was.

“We had people who didn’t go home from work for weeks on end,” Miller said.

He said the moment Medstar learned the pandemic was approaching the U.S., a year-and-a-half of personal protective equipment, or PPE, was purchased.

“Our employees never went without PPE,” he said.

Some statistics he provided about the business from the last year include 18,000 lost personnel hours due to infection or clinical restrictions; employees working up to 96 hours a week; 18 hospital admissions of Medstar clinical staff and one death; and $745,000 in additional PPE.

Examining COVID-19 impact on response metrics, Miller said there was a 25% reduction in emergency requests beginning in April 2020.

“We’re almost back to full capacity,” he said. “Emergency department utilization dropped, and the turnaround times at the hospital went up dramatically.”

He said usually it takes about 10 minutes to drop a patient off. That time increased to over an hour in 2020.

In Macomb Township, Miller cited that the top three reasons people request an ambulance are for breathing problems, someone being sick, or falling causing an injury.

Last year, response time of eight minutes or less accounted for 90% of the time, with an average response time of five minutes, 49 seconds in Macomb Township.

Looking to the future, Miller said Medstar is starting an automated external defibrillator, or AED, shock and save initiative, and its EMT academy will graduate its 100th EMT on July 30. The academy began this year.

He announced that Macomb Township will be part of Medstar’s knock and check program.

“Any homebound senior or high-risk for hospitalization individual, we’re going to offer a free monthly check,” Miller said. “A paramedic will come by, run a set of vitals, run an EKG, check their medication and provide all the information to their physician and family.”

He added that as a paramedic, he can say that 75% of people in an ambulance had predictable conditions, that — had someone noticed them a day or two prior — could’ve told them to see a doctor.

Speaking more on response times, Miller said Medstar has encouraged their ambulance drivers to slow down.

“There’s no national data that supports ALS (advanced life support) response time having an impact on patients,” he said. “The data supports that ambulances driving fast cause accidents.”

Miller added that Medstar is working with a university to have a Ph.D. student study the outcome of Medstar patients taken to hospitals and match it up with the response time, what resources were on the scene and what treatment was provided.

“The real question isn’t what is the response time? It’s what is the outcome?” he said.

When asked what he sees as Medstar’s most important provisions of its contract with Macomb Township, Miller said it’s the interaction with medical first responders in the township and the positive feedback it receives from residents. Currently, the contract is for five years with the township.

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