East Texas experiencing paramedic shortage, other issues due to COVID-19 pandemic

Coronavirus

TYLER, Texas (KETK)- In a time of crisis, we dial 911. But what happens when they are busy or they have nowhere to take you? These are some of the difficult decisions some East Texas paramedics are facing every day amid the pandemic. 

The EMS CEO at UT Health, John Smith, mentioned that paramedics are seeing a record number of people seeking medical attention.

“We normally run about 5,500 calls a month, but in August, we ran over 7,000,” he said.

With area hospitals at capacity, EMS are limited on where they can take patients to be treated. 

“When the hospital gets full, and they can’t take any more patients, they’ll go on divert, and pretty much what that means is they need a break. They need less EMS traffic, and fortunately, we work really close. So quite often, all three hospitals in Smith County go on divert. When that happens, we just rotate so every 911 call that comes in it’ll go to UT, one will go to CHRISTUS, and sometimes UT North so each hospital gets a patient,” said Smith. 

EMS are routinely driving farther distances than they have in the past.

Moreover, there is also a paramedic shortage in East Texas and across the county. 

“It’s pretty much been an all hands on deck for the last year and a half with our people stepping up. We’re fortunate,” said Smith. 

These are just a few of the issues first responders are facing. Yet, they manage to push through the challenges to provide us care.

“If you see one of the healthcare workers, a paramedic, or a nurse out there, thank them for what they’re going through. Last year, they were all heroes. This year, people have moved on. COVID-19 was the story in 2020; In 2021, we’re tired of hearing it, but this last surge has been way more brutal, I think, than in 2020,” said Smith.

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