Local first responders are facing the challenge of every person in the community potentially becoming a patient during the coronavirus outbreak—an unprecedented event—said Gary Vincent, chief of the Magnolia Volunteer Fire Department.
“This problem is so widespread and involving so many people simultaneously,” he said.
With the number of positive coronavirus cases increasing throughout both Harris and Montgomery counties, officials have signed local disaster declarations in effect through at least mid-April.
Vincent said the MVFD has ramped up its operations to handle an increased call volume during the coronavirus outbreak.
“The potential for continued service demands is unprecedented in my 40-year career,” he said.
During this outbreak, having adequate supplies and resources is a challenge, Vincent said. However, he said the department is currently well prepared to work on acquiring the materials it needs.
In Tomball, Northwest Community Health, providing emergency medical services, has actually seen a decreased number of calls, according to Marco Kimassi, special projects manager for Northwest Community Health.
“We have seen a decline in our overall call volume, which we assume is from the public thinking twice before going to a hospital where COVID-19 patients may be,” Kimassi said in an email.
Using a program called Mobile Integrated Health is one way Kimassi said Northwest Community Health has been helping patients who do not need to visit an emergency room. Kimassi said EMS personnel can provide the service to prevent unnecessary emergency room visits because many people go to the emergency room when their needs could be taken care of at their primary care office.
“They are the ones who will follow up with you to ensure your immediate health care needs are met and help find the resources for you if not,” he said.
Still, Kimassi said the workload has increased due to the operational planning, logistics and infectious disease control needed during this time.
Although personal protective equipment is in no short supply for Northwest Community Health currently, Kimassi said a concern is maintaining that status.
However, he said the biggest concern is keeping up staff morale and mitigating fatigue.
“The stress of constantly walking into the 'unknown'—[does a patient] have COVID-19 or not—adds a stressor and anxiety that will wear on anyone,” he said. "We can say we are truly blessed with the staff we have and could not ask for a better team and family."