Kershaw Co. EMS changing patient transport policy over consequences of COVID-19

Kershaw Co. EMS changing patient transport policy over consequences of COVID-19

CAMDEN, S.C. (WIS) - Kershaw County EMS has new rules for transporting patients.

In a press release published Thursday, the department announced, “Effective immediately, patients being treated by Kershaw County EMS who require treatment and transport will now be transported to the closest appropriate hospital.”

PRESS RELEASE FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE January 21, 2021 Media Contact 803.425.1500 Lauren Branham Reeder Public...

Posted by Kershaw County, SC on Thursday, January 21, 2021

Kershaw County EMS Director Gerald Blanchard said the decision is driven in part by hospital diversions, where hospitals ask ambulances to take patients to other clinics due to issues with capacity.

“This was a proactive attempt for us to not continue to add to the bulk of their stress and do our part to keep our units. Our people inside our county to provide better 9-1-1 response,” he said.

Blanchard said the move will eliminate patient choice on where they want to be treated in an effort to keep resources closer and save valuable time.

“We can be in route up to five to 10 minutes before realizing they want us to go to a different location. That puts additional stress on the crews, stress on the patient, and again, just taxes the resources,” he said.

Patients will continue to receive the care they need. The release states: “Trauma, STEMI, strokes, as well as high-risk obstetrics and pediatrics, will continue to be transported to the most suitable facilities for treatment.”

Blanchard said his teams have been stretched since the holidays, seeing an extra 90-100 calls per month. Blanchard said, at times, his team has been short-staffed due to COVID-19 quarantines, resulting in the temporary closure of Substation 5 in Bethune.

“One of the [Quick Response Vehicles] that are on the road, either the supervisor or the assistant supervisor immediately shifts to that vacant station area to provide first response,” he said.

As of January 22, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control is reporting 93.4% of Kershaw County’s hospital beds are full. Additionally, DHEC has tallied 743 COVID-19 cases in the last two weeks, and 87 deaths overall.

Kershaw County is among several rural counties including Lee, Saluda, Fairfield, and Clarendon which, as of Jan. 22, do not have any available COVID-19 vaccine appointments, per DHEC’s website.

This is in large part due to the low number of vaccines the state is receiving on a weekly basis.

In a call with journalists on Friday, DHEC Interim Public Health Director Brannon Traxler said DHEC’s board will be weighing options on making the distribution of vaccines more equitable across the state next week.

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