BUTTE — The COVID-19 pandemic was difficult on everybody, but for EMS workers in Butte, whose job it is to be the first person to respond to a medical emergency, it’s even more difficult.
“(A) Hundred percent of the time we’re there, you know, we got to be there 100 percent of the time, so you just try to be as careful as you possibly can,” said A-1 Ambulance paramedic Nick McGree.
A-1 Ambulance crews were often exposed to people in medical emergencies that were infected with COVID-19 and routinely had to put staff in quarantine. They learned to take special precautions, including designating one ambulance for all COVID-19 related calls.
“We would bring that specific rig out and then once we got back, we would UV light it, clean everything, and then it doesn’t tie up a first call rig,” said McGree.
EMS responders would also do everything they could to protect themselves when responding to a COVID-19 situation, known as a universal precautions call.’
“As soon as they said ‘universal precautions,’ we would try to limit the amount of people that were in the house and, obviously, try to put PPE on that patient,” said McGree.
Representatives from St. James HealthCare delivered gifts to all emergency responders in Butte as part of EMS Week. The gestures were appreciated by first responders who had a very busy 2020.
“We had to be even more aware of our personal safety so that we not only contracted it but didn’t bring it home to our loved ones once we were done with work,” said Capt. Bryan Cetraro of the Butte Fire Department.
Working in EMS is a stressful job, to begin with, and the pandemic only compounded that, but officials here say their crews stepped up when times were tough.
“We still have families, we still have the community, everybody had that added stress, and for some reason, these guys were stressed, obviously, just because of the pandemic, but they really stepped up to the plate and I just can’t thank them enough,” said McGree.