EMS workers pushed to the limit without adequate supplies, dwindling workforce
A growing need for protective gear and a dwindling workforce is pushing EMS workers on the frontline to the limit.
Joshua Sutherland is a paramedic in Far Rockaway who has been working 15 hour shifts and feeling exhausted.
"I had a partner who unfortunately just called me yesterday and said, 'Hey man just giving you a heads up, I tested positive.'" Sutherland says the two worked together all weekend and says he and his coworkers are forced to forge ahead.
The FDNY says EMS workers responded to a record number of calls with more than 7,200 Monday night. That's 50% more than the normal average and they are doing it with less manpower.
The FDNY EMS union reports that at least 60 EMT's and paramedics have tested positive for COVID-19 as of Wednesday afternoon. An additional 600 members are experiencing symptoms.
"We just want the right gear for our people, for our members so that they can go back home to their families," says Oren Barzilay, president of the FDNY EMS Union Local 2507.
Sutherland says EMT's are told to only wear an N95 respirator for certain calls.
"The patient may not be wearing a mask in their home and may have been coughing the entire time, but because they're not in cardiac arrest we're told to wear a surgical mask and that's not going to protect us as well as the N95," says Sutherland.
The FDNY says it has been carefully managing usage of N95s and surgical masks, and say the N95s should be used only for aerosol procedures.
FEMA is sending 250 ambulances and about 500 more EMT's and paramedics to New York City for much-needed relief. New Yorkers are also asked to not call 911 for minor ailments.