ER24 on standby during a global pandemic

Posted on 9 June 2020

The experts in prehospital medical assistance bring a reliable and responsive approach to a unique challenge: countering the spread of COVID-19.

Ever since the World Health Organization declared the outbreak of coronavirus disease a pandemic in March 2020, Mediclinic has been adapting to the challenge of reducing its transmission by preventing infections inside its hospitals.

But that’s not all. ER24 prides itself on a responsive, adaptable and innovative approach to all aspects of prehospital medical care. This is just as true today, as the country fights together to curb the spread of an invisible enemy.

ER24’s part in this battle began before the first cases of COVID-19 were reported in South Africa, and has evolved, says Dr Robyn Holgate, Chief Medical Officer: ER24. “Initially we spent a lot of time critically evaluating and learning from the experiences of our international colleagues, and using that research to implement best practices in policy. Now, we are rapidly moving towards a phase where we will need to manage the expected patient load and mitigate the effect of the pandemic in our communities.”

The company takes its role and reputation as an essential emergency service extremely seriously, and has managed to find a balance between securing the safety of frontline staff while providing high-quality care to patients. Regardless of whether the emergency is COVID-19 related or not, ER24’s promise is to ensure an emergency resource is en route.

ER24 has taken a number of measures to facilitate a considered and effective response to the pandemic. These include establishing a central command structure to manage COVID-related initiatives and operational concerns, interacting with other private and public services to ensure an immediate response for patients in distress, developing protocols and policies for managing COVID-19 patients, ensuring paramedics are supplied with sufficient personal protective equipment (PPE), and training and upskilling staff on how to use this equipment correctly.

Dr Holgate says ER24 has access to models, developed by Mediclinic’s actuarial team, designed to predict local area hospitals’ surge capacity. These projections help paramedics plan while on the road, and ER24’s Contact Centre is similarly prepared, managing an increased call flow by implementing triage questions that aid in prioritising resources and dispatching the appropriate level of care to the scene.

“We expect to see an increase in rapid-response emergency calls to patients who are critically ill,” she says, “and may need advanced interventions at the scene. These are primary response calls – but we also expect to see an increase in interfacility transfers as hospitals become overwhelmed and we may be required to move patients to a more suitable facility.”

Staff are well-trained in managing their own infection risk and preventing the transmission of COVID-19. “ER24 has implemented COVID-19 PPE protocols for all calls we respond to, and we use a buddy system for informing your EMS partner when an infection principle may have been breached. We have practiced and discussed Infection prevention so much the fundamentals have become an everyday routine.”

ER24’s proactive response to the global pandemic is in keeping with its overarching dedication to a spirit of ongoing innovation. This includes keeping a close eye on staff wellbeing during this difficult time, says Dr Holgate. “The risk of contracting COVID-19, or transmitting the disease to family members, has had a profound emotional impact on all our staff. We have a dedicated trauma support telephone line for virtual counselling calls, and also have a dedicated team of counsellors who provide face to face counselling as needed. Should a staff member test positive, this team will join a track and trace team who will care for the staff member and all their colleagues at their base.”



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