All Things Considered

Ambulance providers say they have enough PPE for now; it's lack of calls that worries them

An ambulance
An ambulance responds to a call. Minnesota ambulance crews are seeing a drop in calls. They worry people are forgoing help because they’re afraid to ride in an ambulance that has transported COVID-19 patients.

Bruce Hildebrandt, ambulance operations manager for Allina Health and president of the Minnesota Ambulance Association, wants to assure the public: “We take very specific steps to clean our trucks after every call.”

Calls for ambulances have dropped 10 to 40 percent statewide. While sheltering in place has reduced common types of emergency calls across the country, Hildebrandt said he’s worried the decrease in calls means people are forgoing the help they need because they’re afraid to ride in an ambulance that previously transported a COVID-19 patient.

“If you thought about calling 911, there was a reason that you thought that,” he said. “You should call 911 and allow the professionals to come out, evaluate you and make determinations at that point.”

Hildebrandt said he’s less worried about the supply of personal protective equipment for ambulance crews — right now.

The Emergency Medical Services Regulatory Board and the Minnesota Department of Health worked to obtain additional supplies from a state stockpile for ambulance providers and other health care workers. EMS companies received enough PPE to meet a 10 percent increase in calls.

But EMS specialist Holly Jacobs said some cities saw calls triple during their coronavirus surge.

“We already know it’s not going to be enough,” she said.

Hildebrandt spoke with MPR News host Tom Crann. Click play on the audio player above to hear the conversation.

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