Syracuse Fire Department puts emergency ambulance into regular service to alleviate hospital back-up

Coronavirus

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — Monday afternoon, all four Syracuse-area hospitals were on diversion, an official status recognized by the State Health Department. It doesn’t mean the facilities refuse patients, but means an regional emergency leader assigns individual ambulance based on immediate availability.

This past weekend, more people were in the hospital with COVID-19 in Onondaga County than at any point since last winter’s historic surge. Those people compete for beds needed for all other illnesses and emergencies when there are fewer nurses than last year to staff them.

Because paramedics can’t just drop off patients at the hospitals and have to wait for a nurse to take over care, ambulances are often waiting outside emergency rooms longer than before. The transfer that used to take 20 minutes can now take two hours, according to the Syracuse Fire Department.

Deputy Fire Chief John Kane tells NewsChannel 9: “It’s a trickle-down effect. It takes longer to get the patient turned over. While that ambulance is waiting to turn the patient over, other EMS calls are still coming in.”

The Syracuse Fire Departments EMTs or paramedics are usually the first on scene providing care to people in Syracuse but they usually leave the ambulance ride to partnering companies like AMR or TLC.

Because of the back-up, the Syracuse Fire Department is regularly putting its emergency rig into service. It used to sit parked until the rare occasion when it needed to come out, but now it’s being used five days per week.

It’s standing by in the center of Syracuse for the closest call between 3pm and 11pm Sunday through Thursday, when the city has the most 911 calls.

In a single eight-hour shift, Deputy Chief Kane says this additional rig is average six calls.

Kane says, “People are certainly stressed. There’s a lot going on. They’re trying to do more with less. It’s frustrating for a lot of people in a lot of different agencies.”

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