EMTs are now allowed to test for COVID-19


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A community paramedic from Clarendon County took the initiative to learn how to provide at-home COVID-19 testing after the state Department of Health and Environmental Control began allowing emergency technicians to administer tests.

DHEC, along with South Carolina EMS Association, recognized the state's emergency medical services professionals during National EMS Week by announcing a developed training program to provide paramedics with guidance on how to collect COVID-19 specimens.

According to a press release, DHEC has trained more than 200 EMTs and paramedics in COVID-19 specimen collection. One of those 200 was Steven Demby.

Brad Gerfin, director of EMS at McLeod Health Clarendon, said Demby is part of a community paramedic program in Clarendon County where paramedics go out in the community to help those who don't have reliable transportation.

"One of the challenges that we have in Clarendon County is transportation for our general citizens," Gerfin said. "Some of our citizens don't have transportation, and we don't have public transportation options."

Gerfin said Clarendon County residents have been using 911 to get somewhere to be tested.

To be able to provide these patients with COVID-19 testing, Gerfin sent Demby to Columbia to get the training for COVID-19 testing.

"He is the only one currently that's trained," Gerfin said. "He's gotten approval to train two of our other paramedics so that we have the ability to provide that testing."

Demby will be able to train Clarendon County EMS on the process, but they haven't yet, according to Gerfin. He said it's good to have the opportunity there if it's deemed necessary.

Sumter County EMS Director Bobby Hingst said none of his EMTs have been trained yet, but they're willing to learn.

"If the need arises and they call on us and say they really need some people, then we told them we would do that," Hingst said.

For now, the Sumter County EMTs are wearing personal protective equipment to help prevent the virus from spreading further. So far, their tactics have been successful.

"It's definitely changed our approach," Hingst said. "We've been very fortunate to have had none of our people contract it, and we provided care to a lot of people that have been confirmed to have it."

The coronavirus has made an impact on how the Sumter County EMS responds to calls now, and Hingst said he can see how the pandemic has weighed on his team.

"It's definitely changed the way we'd typically respond to things," Hingst said. "With the use of the PPE, it's definitely more strenuous on the EMTs and paramedics."

According to Hingst, the protective gear gets very hot, especially with the weather warming, and the staff has been more fatigued than usual.

However, Hingst and the rest of the crew at Sumter County EMS are thankful for the continued support they receive from the community as they take on the pandemic.

"We have folks in the community from organizations to some personal people who have donated masks, PPE items and anything you can think of," Hingst said. "We've had so much outpouring support from the community and businesses in the Sumter community."