DAVIDSON COUNTY, N.C. — 911 centers are taking on a lot of COVID related phone calls.
At times, it can be tough for operators to distinguish between life threatening calls for help and those who are concerned or nervous about the virus.
Plus, when you add in shifting COVID-19 response guidelines, Davidson County Emergency Services Director Larry James described a situation that needed to be streamlined.
“We were changing almost daily. We were getting updates from the state on how to screen the calls, how to handle COVID calls. We had to come up with a way to stay ahead of the curve sort to speak,” James said.
So in March 2020, Emergency Services created Quick Response Vehicles, or QRVs. Lt. Clarence Hoke is a QRV driver and one of the two Davidson County paramedics who helps screen COVID calls.
“Yesterday, I ran 20 calls in a 12-hour shifts. On average, I do 16 to 25 calls a shift,” Lt. Hoke said. “It’s nonstop. It’s one call to the next.”
One QRV covers the northern end of Davidson County while the other one covers the south. When a COVID-19 911 call comes in, it’s routed to a paramedic so they can determine if a full ambulance team response is needed or a smaller QRV unit.
“There are cases where they want someone to assess them and take their temperature and vital signs and reassure them that they will be okay,” Lt. Hoke said.
When a 911 COVID call turns into a home visit and a comforting discussion, Davidson County’s 11 ambulances are free to respond to extremely serious emergencies.
The QRV program also allowed the county to buy automated compression machines.
Lt. Hoke described how the machine helps paramedics do CPR.
“The board goes under the patient, and the compression machine goes on the patient and does continuous compressions,” Lt. Hoke said. “This thing is wonderful. We’ve gotten many saves back because of this machine.”
The compression machine never gets tired and delivers a constant rhythm of compressions.
This allows paramedics to do other lifesaving functions. Plus, in the age of COVID, you are exposing fewer people to a patient that might have the virus.
The compression machines are now on every Davidson County ambulance.
Everyone is hoping the pandemic will slow or end. When it does, the QRVs could be sticking around.
“It looks like as long as we have COVID, we will have QR vehicles in our fleet,” James said. “We have seen the benefits in other areas.”
Since the end of March 2020, the Quick Response Vehicles have responded to over 1,300 possible COVID related calls.
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