Public Health Emergency - Leading a Nation Prepared
Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Oregon Department of Human Services (ODHS), Oregon Health Authority (OHA) and the COVID Response and Recovery Unit (CRRU) have collaborated with frontier, rural and urban emergency medical services (EMS) assets to provide non-traditional support for at-risk groups, including immobile, medically fragile, incarcerated, and migrant populations. Local EMS and state-contracted EMS ambulance agencies proved to be an essential asset in successfully supporting mass testing, vaccination efforts, surge staffing, and patient monitoring, all of which fall outside their conventional emergency treatment, triage, and transport roles.
Finally, frontier, rural, urban, and state-contracted EMS assets provided support to long-term care facilities (LTCFs) and nursing homes. Given high levels of absenteeism among health care workers who were exposed to the virus and subsequently needed to quarantine, the need for surge staffing became apparent. EMS assets were deployed to evacuate facilities, assess patients, and either transport or treat residents on site until local public health/ODHS could identify more stable staffing resources.
After expanding the mission and scope of rural EMS units during the COVID-19 pandemic, OHA and CRRU increased rural communities’ access to care and provided services and resources that were otherwise beyond reach for at-risk populations across the state. Previously, EMS was not utilized as heavily as an asset to assist with mass public health initiatives such as testing and vaccinations; however, the COVID-19 pandemic has allowed local public health agencies to see and expand the value in their engagement.
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