We have received several inquiries from local and national media outlets asking if MedStar is experiencing the challenges with hospital ER offload delays that many EMS systems are facing in parts of Texas, and across the country.
We are very blessed that we are not currently experiencing the hours-long delays other EMS systems are facing in many areas of the country.
The reason that we are not experiencing hospital delays like many other communities is likely due to several important factors:
- Our area hospitals recognize the essential role that MedStar and other EMS agencies serve for emergency calls in the community, and go above and beyond to help assure our ambulance crews are able to effectively and efficiently transition care to the ER staff so that the ambulance can be available for emergency calls.
- A program that we have in place that allows hospitals to discharge patients from the ER earlier, and MedStar’s community paramedics visit these patients at home to assure their clinical needs are met. This helps decompress the ERs, increasing available capacity for incoming ER patients.
- Using a special protocol developed and implemented by our Chief Medical Officer and EMS System Medical Director, Dr. Veer Vithalani, we do not transport patients to the ER who are experiencing mild COVID-related symptoms. These patients are provided an on-scene assessment to assure the absence of any significant medical conditions, and the patients are provided resources on how to access appropriate medical care and testing.
- MedStar launched a new program in April where certain patients with minor medical issues are treated on scene through telemedicine with local emergency physicians. These patients are often not transported to the ER, but rather treated on scene, with options for follow-up care, further helping to avoid preventable ER visits.
Our hospital ERs, MedStar crews, and virtually all emergency care providers locally, regionally and nationally are experiencing very high demand, at a time when some staff members are contracting COVID and are off duty due to quarantine. This is placing significant strain on the emergency medical care system. MedStar uses an evidence-based emergency medical dispatch and response prioritization protocol approved by Dr. Vithalani that helps assure high acuity medical or trauma calls are prioritized over lower acuity calls.
We are extremely thankful for the exceptional care being provided by our area hospitals, and the partnerships we have with the hospitals to help meet the surging emergency medical care needs in our community!