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EMS Association president says medics are ‘exhausted’ and ‘hopeless’ as Covid cases surge

Tuesday, August 17, 2021 by Ashley Lopez, KUT

Emergency medical services in Austin are facing a huge crunch as Covid-19 cases surge.

Selena Xie, the president of the Austin EMS Association, said EMS workers are significantly understaffed at a time when their call volume is skyrocketing.

“Medics are just so tired and exhausted, and in a lot of ways, hopeless,” Xie said.

She said she can’t remember how many emails she has sent in the past year telling people to “hang in there” through the first Covid wave, the ice storm and now the Delta variant.

“I don’t know how long many of our medics can do that,” Xie said. “I mean, we are seeing record numbers of separations and early retirements, and it just doesn’t feel like the end is in sight.”

By July of this year, more people had left the department than in all of 2020. Xie said, coupled with the low pay for these jobs, medics are feeling hopeless because many of the Covid patients they are treating are unvaccinated and could have prevented their situation.

On top of everything, Xie told KUT Friday that EMS call volume had increased 20 percent in just the past two weeks.

“I am concerned that at some point we will start to see more people waiting for EMS services,” she said.

As of now, Xie said people in serious need still have access to ICU beds, but an increasing number of people EMS brings in are being put in a waiting room instead of being taken to a hospital bed.

“I am definitely concerned for our ERs and hospitals,” she said.

This story was produced as part of the Austin Monitor’s reporting partnership with KUT.

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