COVID spike causing ambulance shortage and long 911 wait times in Pasco County, fire chief says

Pasco County

Fire chief begging community to only call 911 in emergencies

LAND O LAKES, Fla. (WFLA) — A Tampa Bay fire chief is begging members of the community to be safe and only use 911 in true emergencies as he says our current spike in COVID cases inundates hospitals and forces ambulances to hold patients for hours as they wait to be admitted.

Pasco County Fire Chief Scott Cassin issued a video message for the community on Tuesday, pleading with them to stay vigilant. In his message, Chief Cassin says hospital rooms in Pasco are being “inundated with patients,” causing the time it takes to be seen in an emergency room to skyrocket.

Many hospitals are at or over capacity and ambulances are holding patients at hospitals for hours at a time due to a lack of available beds and hospital staff,” he explained. “This is causing an ambulance shortage across the county and is causing long wait times for 911 callers.”

Cassin urged everyone in Pasco County – resident or visitor – to stay vigilant and consider getting the COVID-19 vaccine if eligible.

If you have COVID symptoms – like fever, sore throat or a cough – the fire chief says you should go to your doctor, an urgent care center, pharmacy or your local Department of Health for testing to help reduce the impact on emergency rooms.

Division Chief of EMS Paula Coleman was also in the video message and urged residents to consider contacting a doctor or using a walk-in clinic or urgent care center if you aren’t experiencing a life-threatening illness or injury.

“This will get you the help you need in a timelier manner while at the same time assisting overtaxed health care systems,” Coleman said. “Please help us provide interventions for those who truly need them.”

Cassin and Coleman said examples of true emergencies that need immediate medical attention include chest pain, shortness of breath, stroke and serious trauma.

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