Tri-State Ambulance transporting more patients with serious COVID cases to hospitals

"I think we've seen an increase in respiratory issues, shortness of breath, that kind of thing," operations manager Kent Stein says

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – 9-1-1 calls require a little more effort right now.

“Everybody is getting very tired,” Gundersen Tri-State Ambulance operations manager Kent Stein said.

Stein says first responders are transporting multiple COVID patients to hospitals every week.

“Some are sick, some are not very sick,” Stein said.

“It seems like our numbers are trending up from the ambulance service,” Mayo Clinic Health System emergency physician Charles Leder said.

“I think we’ve seen an increase in respiratory issues, shortness of breath, that kind of thing,” Stein said.

Stein says responders take extra precautions on any emergency calls.

“You need to come in fully equipped, so that just in case, you’re already equipped to deal with a COVID patient, even if they’re not COVID positive,” Stein said.

That requires physical distancing between first responders and patients.

“If somebody is not responsive or is in need of immediate medical attention, and we need to get close to you and help you, we’re absolutely going to do that,” Stein said.

Leder says the emergency department is getting multiple patients every day, COVID positive and negative.

“They’re trying to sort through which ones are high risk and which ones are low risk as far as possible COVID,” Leder said.

Tri-State Ambulance was short-staffed pre-COVID.

“And it hasn’t gotten better in the COVID era,” Stein said.

Even if the surge gets worse, Tri-State is committed to responding to patients.

“We would have to triage in this case just like the emergency department does,” Stein said.

But he says there’s less chances of getting to that point if people keep making wise safety decisions.

“That helps keep our ambulance volume down to the point that we can respond to very sick people and get them to the hospital,” Stein said.

Stein says there haven’t been any positive tests among Tri-State first responders from patients.

Pic Ambulance Challenges