“The option of shutting down or not responding to the emergency needs in our community is never an option for us” stated Pete Quinones, President of MetroAtlanta Ambulance Service (MAAS).  “Responding to medical emergencies is our responsibility along with ensuring the safety and wellbeing of our staff and the safety of those that call us for help.  We are ready to assist all patients, COVID19-related or not, and I encourage all experiencing a medical emergency or even perceived to have an emergency to call 9-1-1 and know that we are coming to help you.”

In late January, MAAS began ordering additional supplies and determining how to move support services to a virtual, telework environment in anticipation of the virus in China making its way to the states. The MetroAtlanta EMS Academy, a consortium with Metro Atlanta Ambulance and Kennesaw State University, also developed a plan to move classes to a virtual environment once the university system of Georgia made the call to shut down their campuses.

MetroAtlanta Ambulance officials began daily communications with local Hospital officials, local and state Public Health officials, Georgia Office of EMS & Trauma and Georgia Emergency Management Agency Officials and local government officials in preparation for what might come. Quinones stated, “We work closely with the department of public health and other agency partners planning for disasters; we went through this with the H1N1 flu and Ebola but the unknowns of the Covid19 virus, lack of available testing and lack of vaccinations caught the entire world a bit flatfooted. We knew with schools closing, childcare for our staff was going to become an issue so we asked our staff to confirm they had a plan in place.  Once the Declarations of Emergency on the federal, state and local levels began, we started contingency planning for just about every aspect of operation from staffing to having supply inventories ready that our staff would need.  Keeping our schedules full and keeping our staff healthy and safe while they performed their job was our top priority.”

Metro Atlanta initiated hazardous pay adding 10% to their field staff’s current salary and made sure they could provide staff the appropriate PPE (personal protective equipment) they needed.  Daily safety memos were distributed, educating staff on how the virus was being spread, how to appropriately protect themselves by wearing PPE on all calls, to wash their hands and not touch their faces; how to disinfect their ambulance and the equipment they used.  Staff was encouraged to comply with social distancing when they could and to change out of their work clothes and/or take showers at the end of each shift before getting in their cars and going home to avoid cross-contamination.

Quinones stated, “We have the highest quality EMS professionals in the business in my opinion.  They care about their families and they care about the residents and visitors in communities in which they serve.  They show up to work every day with an attitude to deliver high quality, excellence in patient care and customer service. They leave home knowing their health and safety may be at risk because of the environment in which they work and they know if they are not careful, others with whom they interact may be at risk too.  But they continue to show up day after day and they give their heart and soul to serve the needs of others.  It is inspiring.”

MetroAtlanta Ambulance has transported over 2.300 patients suspected or confirmed to have the COVID19 virus over the past 75 days in addition to patients having strokes, heart attacks or other illnesses requiring emergency care without incident and without any staff infected with the Coronavirus.  They have provided ambulances to residences for wellness checks and to evaluate high-risk populations with chronic illness needing reassurance.

Cobb & Douglas Public Health Deputy Director, Lisa Cro