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Local ambulances having to take patients to hospitals in Buffalo, NYC

Published: Dec. 8, 2021 at 5:48 PM EST
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OGDENSBURG, New York (WWNY) - It’s one more impact of COVID-19: longer and longer trips for patients to find the care they need. And that puts more stress on local rescue services.

Local ambulances not only respond to crashes, accidents, illnesses, they also transport local hospital patients between hospitals when they need higher levels of care.

“We’ve been as far as Rochester, Buffalo, Elmira, Albany. We even had one request for New York City,” said Ken Gardner, Ogdensburg Rescue Squad chief of emergency services.

In the past, patients in St. Lawrence County hospitals were generally taken to Syracuse. But hospitals there often can’t handle any more patients these days, thus the longer trips.

“It presents us with several different difficulties. One, it’s harder for families to get to go see them. … But two, it ties up our EMS transportation,” said Jolene Munger, St. Lawrence County interim public health director.

Some trips can tie up ambulance and crew for 10 to 12 hours. The reasons behind it are many. Hospital staff shortages are part of it. The vaccine mandate for health care workers seems to be contributing to that.

“We’ve had the health care mandate that was released by the governor, it created huge shortages, not up here, but down in the hospitals in the bigger cities,” said Gardner.

Also, COVID-19 patients are filling up available beds. Hospitals are cutting back on surgeries they perform and sometimes mandated not to do elective surgeries at all.

Rescue services say they’re still there to answer the call - in Ogdensburg, in Canton, in Massena – no matter where the trip may eventually take them.

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