Two EMS providers were recently awarded grants through WellSpan Health to help better protect staff and patients throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.
Shippensburg Area EMS was awarded $9,620 for advanced medical treatment supplies, while Fayetteville Volunteer Fire Department EMS received $3,336 to purchase a remote sterilization system for its ambulances.
Slow the Spread grants were paramount to these frontline providers who depend on fundraisers such as bingo and capital campaigns that have been tabled as a result of COVID-19.
“Without WellSpan we wouldn’t have been able to purchase this at this time,” said Andrew Melius, EMS Chief for the Fayetteville Volunteer Fire Department EMS.
Added Shippensburg EMS Chief Shawn Hartsock, “Getting this grant will allow us to continue to perform invasive procedures that minimize risk to our people.”
Slow the Spread grants provided by the WellSpan Community Health Program and the Summit Endowment were established to help community partners navigate through the COVID-19 pandemic. Grants awarded to the Fayetteville and Shippensburg EMS departments were coordinated and funded through the Summit Endowment.
“It is a privilege for Summit Endowment to provide this support to our EMS providers,” said Ann Spottswood, director of community services for WellSpan Health. “While we have always appreciated their responsiveness and quality care, we understand the additional burdens due to COVID.”
Overall, the program issued 42 grants to 41 organizations for more than $272,000 since March 24 in categories such as food (82,614), sanitation/prevention ($71,653), housing ($64,165), virtual/other ($28,851) and medical ($25,000).
“Because WellSpan is involved in each of its communities and works collaboratively with many community organizations, we recognize that we all play a key role in slowing the spread of COVID. No one entity can do this alone,” said Nancy Newton, manager of grants and special projects for WellSpan Health.
WellSpan Health already had a grant program in place that focused on top-priority needs for its communities and accepted applications three times a year.
Newton said that since that program was already established it allowed for a “seamless process” to modify the current application and a quicker review process to fit more emergent needs brought on by COVID-19.
Hartsock said the challenge for his department is the nearest hospital is 20 minutes away from the communities it serves, and sometimes up to an hour away depending on which of the 31 municipalities it responds to.
Items purchased that will allow Shippensburg Area EMS to safely continue advanced procedures include PPE kits, LTD rescue airways (secure patients airways without having to visualize and be inches within), video laryngoscopes, viral filters and sidestream end-tidal monitoring for remote monitoring of a patient’s respiratory status.
“It’s not the right answer to withhold treatment, so this grant allows us to continue to do advance procedures when needed,” Hartsock said.
For Melius and his team of 38 -- comprised of paramedics, EMTs and van drivers -- protecting staff and patients has been top priority since the pandemic broke.
While additional protective gear and social-distancing measures have been used, sterilization of an ambulance is more complex. The inside of an ambulance is disinfected after every call, but there are nooks and crannies that cannot be reached during a typical sterilization, according to Melius.
The AMBUstat Surface Decontamination System fogs the ambulance by utilizing an atomized cold sterilant to decontaminate surfaces that ultraviolet light cannot reach effectively. As surfaces have been a big part of the spread of COVID-19, the device will reduce surface-borne pathogens across a multitude of spaces.
The disinfection process takes about 15 minutes, but the entire process can take up to 45 minutes.
“It will not be utilized after every single call, so we need to determine that, but it allows us a remote-control option to sterilization,” said Melius, who has held the chief’s role since 2016.
Not only are Melius and Hartsock thankful for the award, but they said WellSpan Health’s ability to expedite the process and payments allowed them to order their equipment quickly.
“This will help us protect our community and staff during the COVID-19 crisis,” Melius said.