Anyone who’s followed the pandemic fallout in Guilford County knows that one of the consequences of the spread of COVID-19 has been a huge strain on the ability of Guilford County to deliver its ambulance services in a timely manner. 

On Tuesday, Feb. 1, state health officials announced that some much-needed federal help would be provided to Guilford County and some other counties across the state now struggling to provide adequate service.

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) announced the approval of a staffing support request in partnership with Atrium Health, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response.

In addition to support staff, North Carolina counties are receiving an additional 25 “Advanced Life-Support” ambulances.

Late last year, Guilford County Emergency Services Director Jim Albright made an impassioned plea to the Guilford County Board of Commissioners to be given the ability to enhance the county’s ambulance services, which had been under a huge strain due to the pandemic.  The response times for ambulances in the county were growing and getting uncomfortably long. 

The Board of Commissioners voted for changes meant to address the problem but it was still a giant struggle to find the help needed in the current labor market because other places were seeing the same shortages of staff and ambulances.  

Now, Guilford County and other counties in the same boat have this federal help on the way.

The relief staff being deployed by the US Department of Health and Human Services will arrive in the state in about two days.  The support includes advanced practice providers and registered nurses as well as the ambulances.

Senior Deputy Director for the NC Division of Public Health Susan Kansagra said other solutions are also being explored.

“We continue to find and deploy every available resource to deal with this surge of COVID-19 from the Omicron variant,” she stated in a press release. “Our hospitals continue to deal with near-record levels of patients, and this federal support is one of many levers we are using to meet demand.”

The 25 ambulances are expected to arrive in North Carolina on Thursday, Feb 3.

In addition to Guilford County, ambulances will be distributed to Brunswick, Chatham, Cherokee, Durham, Forsyth, Franklin, Graham, Haywood, Hertford, Lee, Lenoir, Macon, Mecklenburg, Nash, New Hanover, Onslow, Pasquotank, Camden, Pender, Randolph, Rowan, Rutherford, Wake, and Wilson counties.

According to state officials, “NCDHHS is in close contact with hospitals across the state and our federal partners and will continue assessing needs as they arise.”