IEMS upgrades protocol for emergency response

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- Preparing for an expected surge in coronavirus cases, Indianapolis Emergency Medical Services upgraded protocol for its first responders.

Starting on Friday, paramedics are authorized to use their training to treat patients on scene when possible.

On-scene treatment allows patients to remain at home if they can, and is intended to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19 at the hospital. It's also designed to help reduce burden on ambulance services and emergency departments.

The upgraded status allows paramedics to begin triage on scene. That means they will determine the urgency, and decide which patients would be better served by staying at home.

State officials stated last week they expect to see a surge in cases in mid-April or mid-May.

Right now, paramedics make close to 350 runs a day. IEMS chief Dr. Dan O'Donnell says they expect that to change.

"I have no doubt that things will increase over the coming weeks and they will put a strain on all of us," O'Donnell predicts. "But I can tell you Indianapolis is ready to handle this."

Earlier this week, O'Donnell confirmed that 3 EMS workers tested positive for coronavirus. They are currently being monitored in isolation.

O'Donnell hopes to also protect his workers as they help protect the public.

"We want to make sure that our workforce is staying healthy, staying protected so they can be there for one week, two weeks, three weeks, four weeks, however long this thing lasts down the road."

Those calling 911 are asked to give as many details as possible to dispatchers. That includes the services needed, their symptoms and if anyone else in the home has flu-like symptoms.

Additionally, patients are asked to meet first responders at the door or on the porch if it's physically possible to cut down on unnecessary exposure.

If you are not experiencing an emergency, but you have questions about COVID-19 you can call 877-826-0011.

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