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Stressed Emergency Workers Overwhelmed By Winter-Related Accidents

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Allina Health EMS calls have exploded by 20% to 40%, and that's before the snow and ice.

Kyle Strege, Allina Health's South Metro EMS operations supervisor.

"In the 35 years I've been doing this, this is the craziest year I've ever seen," Strege said.

The latest COVID-19 surge is a factor, but staffing crunches play a part as well. And it's not contained to EMS work. Emergency rooms are also full. Jeff Lanenberg is Allina Health's South Metro EMS operations manager.

"We actually have patients on our stretchers for 15, 20, 30 minutes because we can't get them into the ER," Lanenberg said. "When you're starting to see 30 minutes before a patient can get off a stretcher, that's concerning."

"They don't have a bed ready for that patient yet, so we just kind of end up pushing the cot over to the side of the wall and sticking with that patient," Strege said.

Ambulance in Winter
(credit: CBS)

Diversions are also happening hourly. That's when a hospital temporarily stops taking more patients, sometimes sending EMTs across the metro or further to find a bed.

"We are stressed as a system, and I mean all system," Lanenberg said.

But there are things we can all do. Plan ahead, slow down, keep distance from other drivers and limit your trips in poor weather conditions, especially during heavy traffic times.

"We're short staffed, it's a lot of stress on everybody, but we keep coming to work every day," Strege said.

Here's another reminder: Pull over for emergency vehicles, preferably in the right lane, as taught in driving school.

We noticed some didn't pull over when we were out with Strege. He says they see that all the time.

EMERGENCY COMPONENT - LOCAL

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