Austin EMS Association warns of overwhelming call volume, rushed decon

Austin EMS Association President Selena Xie said crews are responding to back-to-back calls and being pressured to "expedite"


By Laura French

AUSTIN, Texas — EMS providers in Austin, Texas, are facing overwhelming call volumes and pressure to rush to back-to-back calls by hurrying through decontamination processes, union officials warn. 

Austin EMS Association President Selena Xie told CBS Austin that rising call volumes due to the COVID-19 pandemic have led to several instances where no ambulances were available to respond to calls, and EMS providers have at times been told to "expedite," which Xie says "means to hurry from leaving the hospital, to hurry from doing decon." 

The Austin EMS Association warns that EMS providers are facing overwhelming call volumes that are impacting response times, and feeling pressure to rush through decontamination processes. (Photo/Austin EMS Association Facebook)
The Austin EMS Association warns that EMS providers are facing overwhelming call volumes that are impacting response times, and feeling pressure to rush through decontamination processes. (Photo/Austin EMS Association Facebook)

"My concern is that they're not taking the time to decon because they need to be in service," Xie told CBS Austin. 

Xie said that the decontamination process to prevent the spread of COVID-19 can take up to 30 minutes, and that response times have been heavily impacted by the crisis. 

From January to June, 440 "Priority 1" calls, which include heart attacks and strokes, have taken 10 or more minutes to respond to, Xie said.

The Austin EMS Association is planning to request an additional $9 million for the EMS budget at a hearing on Thursday in order to add four more ambulances and 48 more staff members to the department.

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