Pandemic preparedness from chaos

Gaston County EMS leadership embarked on a plan to equip every transport-capable ALS unit in Gaston County with a ventilator


By James H. McConnell, NRP, BS

The emergence of the COVID-19 virus has presented multiple challenges for healthcare professionals across all disciplines of medicine. In the EMS realm, we pride ourselves on our commitment to remain prepared for the unexpected. The scope and length of this pandemic has brought to light a widespread lack of equipment to optimally respond to this type of prolonged event. As with any challenge, EMS and first responder agencies across the nation have turned these challenges into opportunities.

As COVID-19 sparked concerns of ventilator shortages, leadership at Gaston County EMS (GEMS) knew that this was a critical area that we could begin to address. GEMS is the sole ALS provider for Gaston County, North Carolina. In addition to providing ALS 911 services to the 210,000 residents of the county, GEMS also performs about 1,500 interfacility transports annually. Leadership embarked on a plan to equip every transport-capable ALS unit in Gaston County with a ventilator. This plan would bolster our response capabilities for interfacility transports, as well as regional preparation for a surge in critical patients from the current pandemic, or any future pandemic or incident.

Major Jessica Ross teaches Lieutanant Wes Long and EMT Josh Helton learn to use the AHP 300, using the “see one, do one, teach one” method. (Photo/GEMS Staff)
Major Jessica Ross teaches Lieutanant Wes Long and EMT Josh Helton learn to use the AHP 300, using the “see one, do one, teach one” method. (Photo/GEMS Staff)

These ventilators will remain on each of our ALS ambulances, available for use in interfacility transports. However, in the event of a pandemic surge in our area, we will be able to immediately deploy the 25 ventilators to equip a field hospital for emergency mitigation of a mass influx of critical patients.

Due primarily to the nationwide shortage of ventilators, there was a four month time lapse in seeing this project through to fruition. In early August, GEMS took delivery of 25 AHP 300 ventilators, prompting our training department to quickly mobilize to train staff and get these tools on the units and in service. GEMS Chief Mark Lamphiear said, “the addition of these ventilators into our system helps us build a greater level of preparedness to respond to the needs of Gaston County, both for everyday EMS, and also for regional pandemic surge, now or in the future.”

(Photo/GEMS)
(Photo/GEMS)

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