Paramedics respond to record-high 911 calls in 2021

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OGDEN, UT (ABC 4) – For healthcare workers across Utah this year has been busier than ever. However, before many patients are admitted to the hospital, they call for help. This means many fire departments across the state seeing an uptick in emergency calls. For the Ogden City Fire Department, 2021 will be a record-breaker.   

“I think in the back of all of our minds, we are concerned about burnout,” paramedic Amanda King told ABC4. King has been with Ogden City Fire for three years. ABC4 reporter Kade Garner spent a snowy morning with her as she responded to call after call.  

Snowy days often mean more calls for help. However, for paramedics and EMTs with the fire department, this whole year has felt like a snowy day.   

“The men and women that signed up to do this job, they knew that,” Deputy Fire Chief Mike Slater told ABC4. “They knew there were going to be some stressing moments, some trying moments, and they’ve just pushed through.”  

To date, COVID-19-related calls are up 26 percent, compared to last year in Ogden. EMS calls are also up 11 percent. Slater explained that the increase in COVID calls is a big reason the overall call volume has gone up. However, it’s not the only reason. “People are still getting sick from cardiac issues, diabetes, seizures, strokes, traffic accidents, and we’re still responding,” he added.   

For most of 2021, the vast majority of COVID-19 calls the department responded to were for unvaccinated individuals. However, emergency personnel told ABC4 that they are responding to more breakthrough cases. Nonetheless, they say those individuals have symptoms that are much less severe than their non-vaccinated counterparts.  

ABC4’s Kade Garner started his day at 8 a.m. with the fire department. A fresh coat of snow glistened on the road at that time. Many calls came in for minor car accidents. As the day progressed, calls came in for nearly all of the conditions that Slater previously mentioned.   

Amanda King drove the department’s paramedic rescue unit #1 from scene to scene and from hospital to hospital. It was clear that her daily schedule is packed full even without a snowstorm. So, how does she and her fellow paramedics and EMTs continue to push through as calls increase? “It helps immensely to have a good crew and to have good people that you’re working with, and just to all be on the same page,” she said.   

The department expects to reach 21,000 calls before the year ends all while being short a handful of crew members. To be efficient, they have to be on the same page like King stated. However, they also need the community to be on the same page too. Officials told ABC4 one of the best ways the community can help reduce their workload is do what they can to slow the spread of COVID-19. King added: “Even though this is the new normal and we may be living with this for a few years to come, just, we understand it better now. So, it’s not this, kind of, big scary unknown.” Slater stated: “Anything you can do to help us reduce our workload, would be greatly appreciated.” 

Even with a higher-than-normal workload, paramedics — like King — believe it’s all worth it. “We’re not just scooping somebody up and driving them to the hospital,” she said. “We do have those calls where the interventions that we’re doing actually making a significant difference.” 

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