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Coronavirus Update: EMS Personnel Directed To Not Take Patients They Cannot Revive To NYC Hospitals

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Mounting pressure on the hospital system due to the coronavirus outbreak has impacted Emergency Medical Services Council guidelines on how emergency crews will now respond to cardiac arrest calls.

As one first responder told CBS2's Lisa Rozner on Thursday, it's like a war right now. They are still doing everything they can to revive a patient on scene, but now, if they can't, the patient will no longer be transported to a hospital.

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Calls to 911 in the city for cardiac arrest are up almost 50%. Vinny Variale, the president of the EMS Officers Union, said ambulance crews are using the same tactics on scene as an emergency room to restart the heart.

"You have to have people doing CPR, people calculating drugs, intubation, a lot of high-risk procedures have to be done," Variale said.


And those will continue to be done. If crews can get a heartbeat, the patient will be taken to the hospital.

But if crews are unsuccessful after some time, new rules effective immediately by the Regional EMS Council of New York City say first responders will pronounce the person dead, instead of taking them to the hospital.

"This is not going to be something that's going to endanger people," Variale said.

The American Heart Association agrees because the chance of the hospital reviving the person after EMS fails is extremely slim, Rozner reported.

"That's where you going to see the most benefit is within the first 20-30 minutes of that resuscitation effort," AHA VP Dr. Comilla Sasson said.

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Anthony Almojera, the vice president of the EMS Officers Union, said with around 20% of first responders out sick and increased calls, the sooner the ambulance can come back on-line, the more lives it can save.

"This is a wartime mentality when it comes to the front lines here," Almojera said.

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He said a crew at Brookdale Hospital recently waited two hours for staff to find a stretcher. Public health expert Dr. Bruce Y. Lee said delays like that are becoming more common as crisis standards of care are being utilized inside hospitals now.

"There will be patients who are successfully resuscitated in the field, but still very sick and need to be brought to these hospitals, so they're going to need intensive care as well," Lee said. "Ventilators is one of the key scarce resource, which will literally determine whether people live or die."

This change is also being my by EMS crews on Long Island, but officials wants to remind the public if you are arriving chest pain or having trouble breathing, do not be afraid to call 911.

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