With public health stretched thin, EMS catches the fallout
Cuts to vaccination and screening programs mean a bump in service calls — how do we capitalize?
By Arthur Hsieh
You probably recognize the implications of a report from The Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation detailing the effects of state health spending cut-backs for the health system’s safety net, EMS. Most systems see a rise in service calls during the winter months as the flu and cold season kicks into high gear. Without a comprehensive screening and vaccination approach to infectious diseases, it becomes more likely that outbreaks will swamp prehospital and emergency department services, making it more difficult to respond to other calls.
Public health has historically not been part of the language of EMS, even though we are often operating under its auspices. Much of the work that public health does is behind the scenes and unglamorous. In some ways it’s very much the opposite of what EMS does: While we work on one patient at a time, in a reactionary mode, public health workers implement their care at broad communities and focus on reducing the rate of incidence of disease and illness.
We’re beginning to see the intersection of these two delivery models, with EMS providing vaccinations and implementing safe housing checks. It’s likely that, as money continues to dwindle for overall health services, there will be more pressure to multitask and create synergies among delivery models.