Farmington Hills EMS workers cautioning residents not to be intimidated by Personal Protection Equipment

EMS want people in community to be prepared for their appearance

EMS workers in Farmington Hills don't want public to be afraid of PPE

FARMINGTON HILLS, Mich. – Farmington Hills EMS wants you to know they might look a little different right now when you see them in the community, and that’s to help protect everyone from the spread of COVID-19.

Jim Etzin, EMS coordinator for the Farmington Hills Fire Department, said they have all prepared and trained to deal with infectious disease and have dealt with it in the past, but says this is unprecedented.

“With our personnel to be wearing the extent of personal protective equipment that they are on every call for service and decontaminating themselves, their equipment and their ambulances in the manner that they are, we've never seen anything like this before,” Etzin said.

Etzin says they want people in the community to be prepared for their appearance.

“All the personal protective equipment that we're wearing can be very intimidating to the people that we encounter between the respirators and the face shields and the coveralls. It almost dehumanizes our firefighter paramedics. And although it's necessary for us to do that, it's psychologically bothersome, not only to the patient, but to our providers as well,” Etzin said.

The firefighter paramedics specially clean all the equipment and ambulances after each run. Etzin says they use foggers with disinfectant spray on the entire back of the truck and any equipment that may come into contact with an infectious patient. He says they let them disinfect and soak in for about 10 or 15 minutes and then at that point, the ambulance will be prepared for the next emergency.

“We still have people that are falling and experiencing injuries as a result of those falls. There aren’t anywhere near as many people on the road as there normally are, so our motor vehicle accidents are certainly down. But there are still people experiencing diabetic emergencies, chest discomfort, difficulty breathing for reasons other than COVID-19,” Etzin said.

The Farmington Hills EMS team is working with patients to determine the best options, which sometimes means not going to the hospital.

“They (hospitals) are as busy as they ever have been, with a large number of, you know, COVID-19 positive patients and severely symptomatic patients. So if we can work with the patient and their families to, you know, come to the determination that they may be better off remaining sheltered in place than going to a hospital at that time, we certainly would support that decision on their part. But if they have, you know, if they are again, severely symptomatic, whether it be COVID-19 related or any other medical condition, we’re certainly going to take them to the hospital,” Etzin said.

Etzin says a great concern for many people they encounter right now is a fear of getting sick at the hospital.

Local 4’s Dr. Frank McGeorge says the instinct that has you concerned and led you to call EMS should not be ignored and if your gut tells you something is wrong you should follow it. He adds hospitals are aware of this concern people have and are dong everything they can to minimize the risk.

Etzin says typically the department transports 80 percent of its medical emergencies with 20 percent choosing to stay home. He says in these current conditions those numbers are more like 50 percent transporting with 50 percent choosing to stay at home.

Etzin and the department want to recognize the work of medical first responders saying the work they’re doing is extraordinary. He also wants to thank the community for its generous support and donations.

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About the Authors:

Karen Drew is the anchor of Local 4 News First at 4, weekdays at 4 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. She is also an award-winning investigative reporter and part of the Local 4 Defenders team.

Natasha Dado is a digital content producer for ClickOnDetroit.