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Regional hospital beds are nearing capacity making Franklin Medical Center’s and Northeast Louisiana (NELA) Ambulance Service’s job hard but not impossible.

Shane Scott, spokesman for NELA Ambulance, said the bed shortage means ambulances will transfer FMC patients to farther hospitals.

“We are doing a lot of transfers for longer distances like Rapides, Shreveport and Baton Rouge,” Scott said. “We’ve done transfers to Little Rock, Pine Bluff and northeast Mississippi.”

NELA Ambulance and FMC’s dilemma is not only in Franklin Parish but also in Madison, Tensas and Richland parishes, Scott said.

“It’s everywhere,” Scott said. “All of the surrounding hospitals are trying to get people in beds that need more care.”

COVID-19 has limited the availability of hospital beds but virus patients are not the only ones that need to transferred, Scott said. Orthopedic, cardiology and neurology patients are being transferred too.

“Services are there, some hospitals just don’t have the room,” Scott said.

Blake Kramer, FMC administrator, said the hospital was “mobilizing” resources to alleviate the “delayed times for transfers.”

“We are working diligently to mobilize as many resources as we can acquire to treat the patients in our care and dealing with the delay times for transfers to the best of our ability,” Kramer said.

Scott recognized the longer transfers tie up NELA ambulances for greater amount of time, but he said Franklin Parish would always have at least two units fully staffed on call.

NELA has three ambulances in the parish. If one is on a transfer and the other is called out for a 911 call, an ambulance from another parish will be relocated locally.

“We will not leave the parish with one ambulance,” Scott said. “There will always be two ambulances in the parish.”

To alleviate some of the problem, NELA Ambulance has added a fourth ambulance to Franklin Parish. The fourth unit is a Basic Life Support (BLS) ambulance for transfers only. BLS offers the public two emergency personnel where as Advance Life Support (ALS) ambulances offer a paramedic.

“The BLS ambulance has been going shortly after the outbreak began,” Scott said. “We’re going to keep it after the pandemic.”

911 calls remain a priority for NELA Ambulance, and transfers are only done when an ambulance is not on an emergency call, Scott said.

The delays come from hospitals trying to find beds for patients that need a higher level of care.

“There is a shortage of ICU beds and specialty care all over Louisiana at this point,” Kramer said. “This is because of the COVID surge but also due to highly acute patients who have delayed care, now being far sicker and unable to be treated without high level resources.”

Ambulance services and hospitals will work through the problem, Scott said.

“Is it unbearable,” Scott said. “Absolutely not. Do not delay seeking medical attention. The public should not worry about the availability of medical attention from hospitals or ambulance services. The health system is not broken or overloaded.”

What should the public do?

“Help limit the spread of the virus,” Scott said. “It’s all about helping each other. Wear a mask and practice social distancing.”

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