JOHNSTOWN, CAMBRIA COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ Plus) — Whether you’ve tested positive or not, everyone has been affected the coronavirus. This is the final of a four-part series that dives into the life of essential workers, and we finish with EMS workers.
The job of an EMS worker has gotten significantly harder during the the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Getting ready to go on a call now is more time consuming because we used to just put on gloves, go to the call, go in and see what you were dealing with. Now before you even get out of your unit you are putting on a mask, you’re putting on gloves, you’re putting on goggles,” says Janice Yothers, paramedic as East Hills Ambulance.
She says from the moment they walk in, their temperatures are taken and they are asked if they have any symptoms. If they do, they are asked to go home and quarantine as needed.
Even before they are out in the field, ambulances are prepped and cleaned…a process that’s repeated after each use.
Yothers says how they respond to a call has also changed.
“We used to talk to the family first, interact with them first and then go to the patient. Now we go straight to the patient and we try to keep a distance from the family just in the event we have picked up something or one of them has and isn’t aware of it.”
Yothers and Ira Hart, commander at the West End EMS says calls are down around 30% because people are scared to go to the emergency room.
“They were waiting until the very last moment to call for an ambulance which created a lot of very very sick people that could have been there earlier that wouldn’t have gotten to that level,” says Hart.
With calls down, Hart says they’ve been fortunate to keep everyone on staff.
“From our business, we never know moment to moment we could have one call in the next couple of hours or eight calls in the next couple of hours.”
East Hills Ambulance hasn’t laid anyone off but says some shifts have been cut.
Hart says the station has benefitted from the downtime.
“I don’t think our station has ever been cleaner. We’ve gone through things that we put aside for many many years. We’ve gon through stuff that was stored and put back…you know we’ll get to that eventually.”
Brent Swaltek has been helping out at East Hills Ambulance for the last three years. His dad has been with the station for more than 35 years.
Swaltek is now starting EMS classes through Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center and said it was the perfect time to get more involved.
“I’ve always enjoyed helping, it’s a big thing that I enjoy to do. Back in 2007, I had cancer so that kind of helped me push into the medical field a little bit,” says Brent Swaltek, ride-along EMT student.
He has advice for anyone that may need help.
“The biggest thing is don’t be scared to go to the ER. There are a lot of patients who are scared to go to the ER currently and the ER is taking a lot of precautions to make sure your safety and their safety are a priority