TEXARKANA, Texas - The recent spike in COVID-19 cases and shortage of hospital beds across the nation is placing a strain on ambulance services.
LifeNet EMS in Texarkana said the pandemic is once again taxing their 911 emergency response system. The ambulance service is taking about 10 to 15 more patients with suspected COVID to the emergency room a day than they were at this same time last year.
LifeNet is now working to remind people of the appropriate times to call for an ambulance.
LifeNet President David Baumgardner said people should only call emergency services for things like car crashes, and severe medical situations, like a stroke or difficulty breathing, or if its hard to put someone in a personal car to get them to a hospital facility. He said just because you arrive in an ambulance doesn't mean you'll be seen faster in the ER.
"You'll still be triaged and be put in the order of the severity of your case. So, that's really the inappropriate use of 911 in that case, but some people think that still. I would just encourage them not to do it that way," Baumgardner said.
If you're not experiencing life-threatening symptoms, LifeNet recommends you call your physician or visit a free standing health center.
Baumgardner said when paramedics have to spend time answering non-urgent calls, it takes away a valuable community resource.
"One call we tend to get a lot, which is through the 911 system, is someone who feels like they have it and now they want to go to the ER to be tested, that's really not the scenario for us," Baumgardner explained.
As the calls to 911 have increased, so has the need for help to answer them.
LifeNet EMS said they're also experiencing, like much of the country, a shortage of paramedics.