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A spokesperson for the International Association of EMT and paramedics warned on Sunday that it was difficult for first responders to adapt to their new way of life on the front lines of the battle against coronavirus crisis.
“It hasn’t really been easier yet,” group national representative Frank Wagner told Fox News Arthel Neville on “America’s News HQ.” “The call volume has increased by 200, 300 percent. You have to assume everyone has it. You go to a nursing home or facility, you have to take extra precautions in addition to what we do normally. “
When asked if he had the necessary protective equipment to deal with the influx of highly contagious patients, Wagner replied that his supply was “slowly decreasing”.
“I just don’t understand why we don’t have six-month or one-year supply stocks for such an emergency,” he said. “We keep, we ration the equipment. Everyone has equipment but that is not what we should have, and again, we were caught with our pants down.”
He continued, “We weren’t prepared for this. Not everyone thought it was going to be so bad. It’s bad. Hopefully we’re almost at worst and it’s going to get better from now … but I keep repeating it every week. Tomorrow will be better, tomorrow it will be better. I hope in a week or two we will be better, but there is no reason for it which we are not prepared for. “
Wagner said many emergency responders have been forced to reuse personal protective equipment [PPE].
“The PPE we use is for single use … it is not designed to be reused. If we reused this PPE three months ago, they would want to fire us,” he said. “Healthcare workers, if you went into a room with a mask and left the room and treated another patient with the same set of gloves or masks or gown, they would be fired.”
He reiterated, “I know times are tough. You have to do what you do to get by, but none of this equipment was designed for single use.”
Acknowledging the psychological impact the pandemic has had on paramedics and first responders, Wagner said they had done their best to be there for each other as they dealt with the horrors of the deadly virus.
“We spend time with each other and we talk to each other. We have a counselor on site in many places … and we can talk to him when we want in private, and try to take a bite together , to do what we need to do and maintain social distance while all this is happening, “he said.
Wagner said his team faced “two DOAs [dead on arrival] per shift – every two hours, and they keep coming. “
He added: “You have the families of the patients [who] are upset because they cannot go to the hospital with them and they cannot go to the hospital where they want to go. “
Wagner also said that his heart goes to the parents of the patients. “It’s frustrating for everyone.”
Arthel Neville of Fox News contributed to this report.