Johnson County Officials Reexamine 911 Responses Amid COVID-19

Johnson County officials overseeing the EMS system are considering changing the way ambulance calls are handled as medical resources have been strained by the latest wave of COVID-19 in the Kansas City <a class=metro area.” title=”Johnson County officials overseeing the EMS system are considering changing the way ambulance calls are handled as medical resources have been strained by the latest wave of COVID-19 in the Kansas City metro area.” loading=”lazy”/>

Johnson County officials overseeing the EMS system are considering changing the way ambulance calls are handled as medical resources have been strained by the latest wave of COVID-19 in the Kansas City metro area.

As emergency medical resources have been strained by staff shortages and a resurgence of COVID-19, Johnson County officials are considering changing the way ambulances respond to 911 calls.

Dr Ryan Jacobsen, medical director of the Johnson County EMS system, said on Tuesday options were being considered to eliminate unnecessary service calls such as minor illnesses. This could include a more thorough screening process when making 911 calls before dispatching an ambulance or asking emergency responders to advise patients to stay home, Jacobsen said.

“We’re trying to keep ambulances available for real emergencies, traumatic injuries, car crashes, life-threatening things,” Jacobsen said at a COVID-19 briefing hosted by KU Health System, describing the potential move as unprecedented for Kansas City. region.

In one possible scenario, Jacbosen said emergency medical responders could assess a patient at the scene of a call. Patients would not be transported if they were deemed well enough to recover without going to hospital in some cases.

Jacobsen warned that the potential changes are not intended to discourage residents from calling 911 when they feel they are experiencing a medical emergency. But he said the current situation in Johnson County, which reflects similar challenges felt across the country, has resulted in a reassessment that will reserve available resources, including ambulances and hospital emergency room beds.

KU’s healthcare system had 20 patients waiting in its emergency department for hospital care on Tuesday, said Gail Schuetz, the hospital’s director of nursing. She said the ideal number is zero and the overload has raised “big concerns.”

“It’s a daily, minute-by-minute challenge to make sure our patients get the care they need with the staff we have,” said Schuetz.

Cases of COVID-19 have increased dramatically in the Kansas City metro area in recent times, thanks in large part to the omicron variant. As of Tuesday, the moving average of new COVID-19 cases had risen to 3,554 per day over seven days in Jackson, Platte, Clay, Johnson and Wyandotte counties, according to data on file with The Star. The average for the past week was 2,120 per day.

COVID-19-related deaths are also on the rise. Over the past week, 87 deaths have been reported in the region, bringing the death toll to 3,516 since the start of the pandemic.

The Star’s Lisa Gutierrez and Natalie Wallington contributed to this report.

Kansas City Star Stories

Bill Lukitsch covers the latest news for The Star. Prior to joining The Star, he covered politics and local government for the Quad-City Times.

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