GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — As the number of COVID-19 coronavirus cases increase in Michigan and across the country, medical professionals are on the front lines fighting the disease. And, while it may seem the pandemic has stopped the world in its tracks, each day emergency crews respond to a wide-variety of calls.
"Being an EMT or paramedic means dealing with the non-routine, so this is a bit in our wheelhouse from that perspective," says Mark Meijer, president of Life EMS Ambulance. "We've just been very proud of our folks because they've adapted."
Meijer knows that whether a patient of theirs is having a heart attack or having a baby, those patients don't want the ride to the emergency room putting them at greater risk of contracting the disease. Meijer says not to worry.
"This virus as well as others live on surfaces for a certain period of time, so we have to know that," he says. "We follow all of the CDC guidelines, relative to disinfecting and equipment to make sure the ambulances and all of our gear is disinfected after every call."
Life EMS Ambulance has also implemented "additional protocols" that happen before crews go out. Meijer says when a call first comes in, dispatchers will try to determine if there is a risk of coronavirus exposure. If so, they alert medics to wear proper protective gear.
"We can assure West Michigan that we have the proper equipment to safely treat them and we're already accessing the Strategic National Stockpile with our other healthcare partners in West Michigan to ensure that we have the personal protective equipment keep everybody safe," he says.
One piece of equipment they're relying more heavily on is ultraviolet light. Meijer says they've been using the technology for about a year or two, but have recently increased how frequently they use it.
"We use some UV light technology for the back of the ambulances on a routine basis to ensure that none of the virus, bugs and bacteria live in our vehicles" says Meijer. "It's a very unique scenario for the ambulances. We have devices we put inside the patient compartment and close the doors, on the ambulance, for about 30 minutes. The UV light circulates inside the vehicle and can kill all of the potential viruses on any of the surfaces and even into the cabins. When we transport a patient that's potentially positive with COVID-19, then that vehicle is designated to come back and get that UV treatment along with the normal clean."
Meijer says he's proud of the way his employees have adapted to these unprecedented circumstances. In addition to those measures, Life EMS Ambulance screens employees, when they arrive for duty, to make sure they are symptom free.
"We've also we've transitioned to working at home for a lot of our customer service folks and some of our office personnel, that are very important to the success of Life EMS Ambulances, but don't need to be here on site," he says. "So all of those things has helped provide some distance."
Meijer says more than anything, he wants to encourage people in the community to not hesitate to dial 9-1-1, if they need emergency medical assistance.
"Please make sure, if you need help, call us, because that's our mission," he says. "We're taking extraordinary measures to make sure we have the safest environment possible for our patients and our medics."
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