April Data shows alarming 9-1-1 trends for EMS calls during the COVID-19 pandemic

Emergency medicine providers have been concerned that fear of exposure to COVID-19 was preventing people from calling 9-1-1 when they need to.
MedStar’s response statistics and patient outcomes for cardiac arrest victims – patients whose heart has stopped beating and require CPR on scene – would seem to confirm that.
Responses in which a patient was found by MedStar crews to be in cardiac arrest were up 113% in April 2020 compared to April 2019. Of the patients found to be in cardiac arrest, patients pronounced dead on scene by MedStar crews was up 164% in April 2020 compared to April 2019.

During the same time period, MedStar’s response volume is down 19% from January, and ambulance transports to the hospital are down 28%, MedStar said in a news release.
Similar data is being reported by EMS systems across the country.  In a recent survey of more than 860 EMS agencies across the country by the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians, 69% of respondents reported their EMS responses have decreased, with the average reduction being 34%.

The reduction in overall 9-1-1 volume and dramatically increasing incidents of cardiac arrest is of great concern to MedStar and the region’s healthcare system.  Several hospital systems have reported a significant decrease in hospitalizations, especially for cardiac and stroke victims, the news release said.
MedStar data also shows dramatic reductions in calls for heart attacks and strokes in April 2020 compared to April 2019. Calls for heart attacks were down 42% and strokes responses were down 36%.
Area healthcare leaders remind everyone that it is very safe to call 9-1-1 or go to the hospital for acute medical problems. Hospitals have taken numerous steps to assure patient safety and EMS crews are well prepared to safely intervene for serious medical issues, the news release said.

“We are quite concerned that locally and nationwide people are afraid, in some cases, to call 9-1-1.  We are experiencing adverse patient outcomes by the patient not calling 9-1-1 or delaying the call,” said Stephen Love, president of the Dallas-Fort Worth Hospital Council.
“Hospitals and the emergency departments focus constantly on infection control.  Rest assured, it is safe to seek emergency medical care with no fear of contracting COVID-19.  Make the call as we are here to serve you with safe medical diagnoses and treatment,” Love said.
The news release cautioned people to “not be scared to death.”

For information on the signs of heart attack and stroke, visit: