By Melanie Lekocevic
Capital Region Independent Media
GREENVILLE — Calls to the Greenville Rescue Squad in 2021 were up 22% compared to the previous year.
Greenville Rescue Squad Chief of Operations Matthew Marlow reported the year-end figure to the Greenville Town Council at its Jan. 17 meeting.
In 2021, the squad responded to 552 calls, an increase of 120 calls over 2020, when the agency took 432 calls for assistance.
The reasons for the uptick are more complex than what you might expect with the COVID-19 pandemic heading into its third year.
The increase in calls and other challenges are due to hospital capacity and staffing, rising mutual aid requests and a surge in 911 calls after an early pandemic lull.
“We are backfilling Coxsackie (mutual aid) because Coxsackie is backfilling Catskill, who is working in Cairo and everywhere else,” Marlow told the board. “The biggest contributing factor is hospitals. They have cut staff and have started to surge in their own right.”
Ambulance crews have been forced to wait at hospitals as staff tries to keep up with demand, or travel to other hospitals further away, Marlow said.
“We are finding our wait times are extending longer and longer, so we are going to other places, where we normally wouldn’t,” Marlow said. “So our mutual aid has gone up simply because there are no ambulances to answer calls.”
The trajectory of the COVID pandemic, and how it has impacted health care, is another factor the squad has had to contend with over the past year, Marlow said.
“Comparing numbers to last year is hard,” he said. “We all expected that we would see a massive surge as soon as COVID hit, but we didn’t. What we saw was a lot of the usual complaints disappeared for a few months and we weren’t taking the stomach aches and the stubbed toes — we were only taking the very, very sick.”
With people eschewing ambulance trips to the hospital in the early days of the pandemic in 2020, that changed a few months later and the number of calls began to creep upwards.
“After the first few months of COVID wore off and we really hit that fatigue point, the numbers rose so not only were we taking care of COVID numbers, but we were going back to stubbed toes, slip falls — those little things that had kept people out of the hospital for a number of months, they all came back,” Marlow said. “So now what we are seeing is all of the old call volume, plus COVID on top of that.”
Town Councilman Travis Richards asked about the impact of mutual aid calls from other ambulance companies.
“So the calls aren’t really coming from here, they are coming from other municipalities?” Richards asked.
Local calls have been up as well, Marlow responded.
“Even in our own district, we have had an increased call volume,” Marlow said. “We have seen an increase of approximately 40 to 50 calls just in this district that add on to the mutual aid on top of that.”