‘We’re at a tipping point,’ Rochester EMT agencies get help from FEMA

Local News

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — In the past week, the federal government has been stepping in to assist local EMS units throughout the Rochester and Buffalo region due to the Omicron wave keeping paramedics stretched thin.  

Paramedics have also not had much of a break during this pandemic.

9-1-1 calls continue to rise over concerns of people showing serious symptoms from covid, a substantial number of employees are in quarantine, and finding patients bed space is taking longer to do. Now FEMA has come to help.  

Coming into the New Year, Monroe Ambulance still needs to fill multiple new positions, while work around drivers and paramedics out sick from catching Covid over the holidays.  

“We have eight full-time vacancies for paramedics and in excess of 20 vacancies for EMT,” Monroe Ambulance Chief Operating Officer John Caufield said. “Then roughly 10 people out on Covid right now. Sometimes we are short of ambulances.” 

While being short on help, call volumes have risen along with the surge in Omicron cases when people experience symptoms. On top of non-Covid emergencies. So, the state requested 14 EMS units through FEMA to assist all of Western New York last week. 

“We had two ambulances devoted to Rochester,” Caufield told us. “Those two ambulances covered five ambulance calls through the course of an evening. Two in Henrietta, two in the city, and one at Monroe Community Hospital. Because we were out of ambulances at that point in time. Those ambulances have since been deployed elsewhere.”  

While Rochester area hospitals are currently not in diversion mode, Monroe Ambulance still works in transferring elderly patients to nursing homes when they’re done surgery. But finding openings takes longer than ever, keeping units away from responding to other calls. Activists are concerned. 

“We’re finding ourselves being requested to transfer patients from a hospital to the New York City metro area,” Caufield continued. “Then to Erie, PA and last week we even went to Maryland.” 

“That is very concerning because it’s very important family members are able to help with the transition during the admission,” Mary Delwypych of the Elder Justice Committee of Metro Justice added. “It’s a very emotional time, they need to provide emotional support. That can’t happen if someone is far away.”  

When in doubt, first responders encourage anyone to call 9-1-1 if you’re worried about a medical emergency. But there are ways the public can double check to lift some of this burden. 

“If you know it’s fairly low acuity and you may not need to go to the hospital, call your doctor’s office if you can,” Caufield explained. “If you have access to an Urgent Care, I would certainly ask people to consider using those. To save hospital and ambulance resources for folks most in need.” 

As of this weekend Monroe Ambulance has not heard any updates from the Federal Emergency Management Agency or State on how long or where FEMA’s EMS units will be deployed throughout Western New York. But local agencies have been in close contact to pick up any call when one is short staffed. 

Copyright 2022 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Trending Stories

Rochester Rundown
What's Good with Dan Gross
Songs From Studio B
Download Our App

Don't Miss