Ambulance Services dedicate rigs to COVID-19 transports, up safety procedures

MADISON, Wis. – The COVID-19 pandemic is an untraveled road, even for those trained in emergencies. While getting potential coronavirus patients where they need to go, ambulance services are making changes.

Paratech Ambulance, which covers the Milwaukee area through Madison to the Illinois border, has transported more than 700 possible COVID-19 patients, with 150 being confirmed, since early March.

“On a daily basis we’re encountering patients, at least we believe have a high potential of having COVID,” Ambulance Operations Director Chris Walters said. “The last thing we want to do is spread the transmission of disease to patients that don’t already have it.”

Walters said staff has been retrained in properly gearing up with PPE. They’ve also dedicated a specific ambulance to possible COVID-19 calls, but in case there’s more than one at a time, Walters said the other ambulances can take COVID-19 calls, too. After such a call, the ambulances undergo thorough cleaning procedures, including the use of the company’s new ozone generators.

“The ozone, being a gas, goes into every nook and cranny in ambulances to make sure they’re thoroughly decontaminated,” Walters said.

Ryan Brothers Ambulance in Madison has just rolled out its dedicated COVID-19 ambulance and team. So far, Ryan Brothers has transported about 200 people being investigated for having the virus.

“When COVID-19 first came out, we told a lot of customers we couldn’t take a COVID patient,” said co-owner Erin Ryan. “We weren’t prepared.”

That’s why Ryan said they’ve spent the last few weeks preparing, making sure adequate testing was in place for employees and attaining proper cleaning equipment such as UV light sterilizers and a new spray disinfection device called the Tomi-Steramist.

“Within ten minutes, that’s ready to go, and it will kill anything and everything,” Ryan said, adding that it can be used on surfaces and even people if they’re wearing the proper equipment.

According to Ryan, only the specific team of four responders will transport potential COVID-19 patients in the dedicated ambulance, all while wearing a full suit and N95 masks. The other ambulances will be reserved for non-COVID-19 calls, and crews will be kept separate. They’ve also converted their station on the west side of Madison into a decontamination center for the COVID-19 crew, made up of workers who volunteered to take on the job.

“Ryan Brothers has made the commitment to do everything we can possibly do to keep that environment as safe as possible,” he said. “We’re doing everything we can and then more to make sure we’re safe.”

The two ambulance services’ processes are a bit different, but no matter how they get there, the end goal is the same: keeping everyone as safe as possible.

“Our company philosophy is to treat all patients as family members, regardless of what’s going on with the patient,” Walters said. “We want to be ready to respond to all situations.”