Renegade Responders

The COVID-19 frontline heroes

April 2020

Paramedic

Alameda County
Graveyard Shift, 80 hrs/wk
It’s nerve-wracking, we rarely know when a patient tested positive and may never know. The administration doesn’t communicate that information to the crews, and we have families and loved ones to consider in our households.
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How do you feel about regular access to testing for frontline staff? Does your union advocate for it?

We don’t get tested routinely, but I wish we could. Its stressful not knowing which patients may be positive. Some crews could learn as much as three days after they transported the patient. Our union is interested in having us tested but the company we work for doesn’t offer it right now, unless of course you have symptoms or suspect a COVID positive patient. I’m not even aware of the criteria for that, to be honest.

Are you receiving adequate protection for your work?

We have a separate PPE kit with us at all times in case we need it and we try to question the patients before we assess them fully, plus dispatch does an evaluation. We also have our temperature taken before and after each shift and decontaminate after each shift. The rigs are also decontaminated routinely. We also have a spare set of uniforms in case of a contamination issue.

Have you been in a situation where there was an immediate need for PPE, but none was available?

No, it’s not so much that it wasn’t available, we do carry it with us at all times. But the problem is where we don’t know the status of the patient or if they are asymptomatic carriers. Right now, one paramedic enters the location to ask the questions first and establish if the patient is safe to work with.

Have you experienced any patients that were COVID-19 positive?

Not that I know of for sure, but I do suspect I have come in contact with a few.

How safe do you feel, are you nervous about the increasing reports of deaths of frontline medical staff?

Yes, it is extremely nerve wracking. I live with other people and we don’t know how much we’re exposed to on a daily basis.  I’ve been working long days for the past 30 days. I’d like to get access to testing for peace of mind.

Has there been an increase in calls for an ambulance?

We saw a drop for a while, but now it’s back to normal numbers.  However, as the emergency rooms are encouraging patients to not show up there we see more patients that would actually see urgent care, often times they do not require an ambulance, we advise them to see their doctor the next day.

What other changes have you seen in your experience?

We see an increase in more serious traffic accidents. It’s crazy, people are driving much faster and the accidents are more lethal.  Even the CHP has seen a major increase in tickets – folks are driving over 80 miles/hr.

Do you feel others in your household are at risk to COVID-19 as a result of your work?

Yes, I do. I don’t have any children, but I have roommates, so I’m always concerned about possibly infecting them.

Are your colleagues very concerned and how many do you think have already caught the virus?

Yes, we are all very concerned and so far we believe two have tested positive in the company.

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