HEFLIN — Tracey Lambert, Cleburne County EMS director, said Wednesday the agency is ready to take COVID-19 patients to the hospital as it makes other preparations to protect the public.
Lambert said the EMS is following protocols outlined by the Alabama Department of Public Health and is working with the Cleburne E911 center to identify potential coronavirus patients before the medics arrive.
“We’re going to respond, we’re only going to send one person in who will be in full personal protective equipment, PPE, they’ll go in and make an assessment,” Lambert said.
Lambert said treating the patient at home is the best course, when possible; another option would be conferring with a doctor through a website.
“Our main thing is, Can we treat them at home?” said Lambert. “Depending on the age and severity and any other issues then we may have to transport.”
Lambert said a special ambulance has been equipped just for coronavirus patients.
“That ambulance will pretty much have all the equipment removed except for the basic stuff — it’s safer for the driver and medics and the patient,” he said.
After a patient has been removed at the destination hospital, the ambulance and other equipment will be sanitized, according to Lambert.
One issue that concerns Lambert is when a medical team responds to a situation that’s not initially presented as a coronavirus case, but then turns into one. For example, he said, there could be a wreck on the portion of Interstate 20 that passes through Cleburne County and the accident victim may have coronavirus symptoms.
“How are we going to know that? We’re not until we get there, so these are some of the challenges that people don’t really think about that we’re having to deal with,” he said.
The Cleburne County Hospital Board, the body that oversees the Cleburne County Nursing Home and the EMS, has let Lambert order more protective equipment, uniforms and a sanitizer for the ambulance.
Nikki Smallwood, Cleburne County EMS board member, said Wednesday that the board voted Tuesday night to give chairman Kristi Shelton the authority to make decisions without a public vote of the board. Smallwood said that Shelton will be able to commit money until the state’s emergency declaration is lifted, noting that situations might develop in which a quorum of board members might not be possible.
Smallwood commended the EMS and nursing home in their response to the coronavirus.
“It seems like they are both very forward thinking about what we need to do,” said Smallwood.