KGUN 9NewsCoronavirus


Local ambulance services 'stretched thinner and thinner'

Posted at 12:09 AM, Dec 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-14 02:09:40-05

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Dr. Amber Rice is the medical director for the Northwest Fire District.

"Providers are getting stretched a little bit thinner and thinner as both the hospitals get busier and as staff gets sick from COVID as well," she said.

Rice said she's had members of her staff test positive for COVID-19, just another hurdle to continuing to provide services to the public, the other: the rising number of cases locally.

"Because of how busy the hospitals are and how full the ICUs have gotten, we're having to transfer patients at a much higher rate from one hospital to another hospital and that requires a lot more ambulances and lot more providers."

Rice said most departments have ambulance crews exclusively for transferring patients from one hospital to another.

Once that number reaches 50 patients, Rice said, they have to start using ambulances from their emergency response crews.

"They have to wait there until we can physically get an ambulance to that hospital to take them to another place."

Those places, she said, can be a few hours away or further.

"Because of our local system being very over-burdened that we're having to transport patients to places like California, to New Mexico, up to Phoenix to be admitted into hospitals up there because it's the only bed available within the whole Southwest of the United States."

She said crews need relief from that pattern if they're going to provide continuous service in their communities.

"When the hospitals start to be able to take care of the patients within their own walls without having to transport them to other places."