Kern County’s EMS system has met the threshold for Level 1, or the green tier, of the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) System Surge Plan and officially moved Monday from the yellow tier to the green tier, the lowest of the four tiers, according to Kern Public Health.
Kern County was able to drop down to Level one due to a decrease in 911 calls, more ambulance availability as a result of decreased ambulance needs, decreased patient offload times at hospitals, and a decrease in staff impacted by COVID-19.
“Meeting the threshold to move to Level 1 is encouraging news and an indication that Kern County is beginning to emerge from the COVID-19 winter surge” says Brynn Carrigan, Director of Kern County Public Health. “We thank our residents for doing their part to help slow the spread of this disease.”
In December, Kern County Public Health’s Emergency Medical Services Program implemented a new EMS System Surge Plan. This plan was launched in response to the significant impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on local hospitals and the local emergency response system. The plan allows for flexibility in garnering additional resources and prioritizing the most critical emergency calls and best serve our residents during emergencies, Public Health said in a news release.
In January, Kern was forced to move to the second tier of the EMS surge plan, as COVID-19 cases drastically increased throughout December. During this time, there were 37 instances where a Hall Ambulance crew waited more than one hour at a hospital to off-load a patient. Prior to COVID-19, the standard off-load time is is about 20 minutes, according to Kern County EMS Ambulance Patient Offload Policy.
During the winter months, Hall Ambulance had experienced a “sharp” increase in ambulance calls, largely due to COVID-19. Hall Ambulance estimated in December 2020 the agency received nearly 1,000 more calls than it did in December 2019.
Public Health asks everyone to remain vigilant by eating healthy, exercising, wearing a mask when in public, washing your hands often, avoiding gathering, and getting the COVID-19 vaccine when it is available and is your turn.
The County will continue to monitor and evaluate the impact of COVID-19 on the EMS system and will make appropriate decisions to ensure the EMS system continues to provide the best emergency response and care to our residents without interruption.