|As of Tuesday, Sept. 28, Macon County Emergency Services had nine vacancies for a staff of 41 employees, according to Warren Cabe, director of Macon Emergency Services. Speaking to the Highlands-Cashiers Hospital CEO Tom Neal earlier this month, Cabe agreed with Neal that the COVID situation in the area is as intense, or even more so than at the beginning of the year. Health experts are seeing a surge with the spread of the Delta variant.
“EMS currently has nine full-time vacancies out of our 41 full-time positions,” said Cabe. “We have a large roster of part-time/as needed employees and through the use of those staff members and liberal use of over-time funds, we, for the most part, have been able to maintain our existing levels of service through the month of August. Our staff is in contact almost daily with COVID patients and inevitably we will have staff that need to be isolated and miss work due to illness.”
Earlier this month, Cabe cautioned that based on staffing, equipment, and the county’s current positivity rate, healthcare officials in Macon County are more concerned than ever.
“I wanted to present all of these items to present my concerns that the pre-hospital healthcare system all the way from the call takers to the transport crews are as close to a single point of failure as I have ever seen in my career,” said Cabe.
The situation in Macon County is not unique. North Carolina submitted a request to FEMA on Sept. 10 for 40 Advanced Life Support and 10 Basic Life Support ambulances and crews. As a result, nine counties across North Carolina will receive help in the form of 25 Advanced Life Support (ALS) ambulances each with a two-person crew of EMS providers.
“These ambulances and crews will provide necessary relief to our extremely busy EMS systems,” said North Carolina Emergency Management Director Will Ray. “While it’s not the full complement we requested, we know medical resources are extremely limited across the nation right now, and we are grateful for this assistance from our federal partners.”
The ambulances arrived in North Carolina late Sunday night and crews were provided with personal protective equipment and communications gear on Monday. Most began work for their assigned counties on Tuesday.
The number of ambulance crews assigned to each county follows:
The ambulance crews will remain assigned to these counties for 10 days. After that period, needs will be reevaluated to see if changes are needed.
Brittney Lofthouse contributed to this article.