Stefan Hofer’s ambulance company, West Traill EMS, in Mayville, North Dakota, has received only one or two calls that weren’t related to Covid-19 over the past two months. But he said the case count has ballooned by 20 to 30 percent because of the pandemic. At the same time, the company’s expenses have mounted, its revenue has cratered and its workforce is being decimated by the virus.
The company — which is private and supported by volunteers, a few employees and four trucks — covers more than 1,500 miles of North Dakota prairie and serves about 10,000 people on the far east side of the state.
Private EMS services, both in urban and rural centers across the country, collectively received $350 million in Covid-19 relief funds in April, but those companies said that money ran out within weeks. Months later, the need remains great as they face another coronavirus surge.
Hofer said he doesn’t know how long his company can keep up its current pace — much less how it will manage the increase in cases they expect from the Thanksgiving holiday — if ambulance services like his don’t receive additional federal aid. He said he may lose employees soon. That could mean answering fewer calls, too.
“This isn’t going to be over tomorrow, and that’s the big thing,” he said. “We got to make sure that we can still take care of people six months from now, and that’s what’s gotten really hard to figure out.”
In a letter sent to the Department of Health and Human Services and exclusively obtained by NBC News, the American Ambulance Association said “the 911 emergency medical system throughout the United States is at a breaking point. Without additional relief, it seems likely to break, even as we enter the third surge of the virus in the Mid-West and the West.”
An HHS spokesperson said the agency has delivered nearly $107 billion to more than 550,000 providers across the country and opened a third round of funding of $20 billion last month, which they said is available to ambulance services.
That third phase of funding, however, comes with a limit. It’s available to every health care provider and supplier up to 2 percent of their 2019 revenue. EMS services said they’re thankful for the money, but it won’t keep them from potentially going under.
All the funding that the federal government gave us, whether it was PPP funding or money from HHS, all of that is long gone.
The issue for private ambulance companies like Hofer’s is that they no longer get the valuable 911 or hospital transfer calls they once received, as hospitals, nursing homes and people put off surgeries and other medical procedures because of the pandemic. Meanwhile, ambulance services have been forced to buy more personal protective equipment, which has gotten 20 to 25 percent costlier in recent months, to stay safe.
But revenue has collapsed even further because ambulance services…
Go to the news source: Ambulance companies at ‘a breaking point’ after receiving little Covid aid