City in Okla. will have police transport medics to free up ambulances

Muskogee police will drive medics to calls and an ambulance will be dispatched if it is needed


D.E. Smoot
Muskogee Phoenix, Okla.

MUSKOGEE, Okla. — Escalating numbers of new COVID-19 cases requiring emergency health care or hospitalization continue to hobble local resources.

An increase in the number of patients requiring hospitalization and staffing shortages have resulted with a shortage of available hospital beds at area hospitals. As a result, Muskogee County Emergency Medical Service employees have experienced a corresponding increase in the amount of time spent on calls.

The city of Muskogee has agreed to have its police officers transport Muskogee County EMS providers to calls in order to free up ambulances. Officers will drive EMS providers to the scene and an ambulance will be dispatched if the provider determines it is needed.
The city of Muskogee has agreed to have its police officers transport Muskogee County EMS providers to calls in order to free up ambulances. Officers will drive EMS providers to the scene and an ambulance will be dispatched if the provider determines it is needed. (Photo/Muskogee Police Department)

Extended transports to hospitals in Arkansas, Kansas and Missouri limit the number of ambulances available for other patients. MCEMS assigned an employee to work full time at Saint Francis Hospital Muskogee, where the medic waits with patients until a bed is located.

"He's sitting out there for hours at a time, sometimes because we can't get a bed," MCEMS spokeswoman Trish German said. "We're putting a medic out there to take care of those patients, so we're able to get that truck back out on the street."

To help address the public trust's shortage of rolling stock, city councilors authorized Muskogee Police Department to provide transportation for medics.

A memorandum of understanding inked Monday night outlines protocols to be followed by police and emergency medical services employees. The arrangement is authorized by rules promulgated by the Oklahoma State Department of Health.

"This will allow us to assist them when they get overrun with calls, basically because of the pandemic," Police Chief Johnny Teehee said. "They are seeing a higher volume of calls; they're stressed at times with regards to whether they will be able to send trucks to calls."

Teehee said the arrangement "is not anything that we're expecting to have to go out there tomorrow." But when a medic is transported by police, the agreement establishes protocols.

Upon arrival to a location from which an individual "has called for service," an MCEMS employee "shall determine the medical need ... and render necessary aid in accordance with the appropriate level of training and medical expertise" of the person rendering aid. If additional aid is required, "an ambulance shall be called to transport to a hospital with available space for treatment or other medical aid."

In addition to providing transportation, police are authorized to "secure the scene and render it safe" should there be "violence, threat of violence, or [that] which could reasonably be expected to pose a hazard to individuals who are not trained in law enforcement." 

Mayor Marlon Coleman said the partnership is an example of what the city has "long sought, of course, outside of a pandemic." He said taking the opportunity to "build and enhance" the city's partnership with the county "is a wonderful opportunity for us to be able to address this concern as well as ... provide for one another during this pandemic."

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(c)2021 the Muskogee Phoenix (Muskogee, Okla.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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