BUCKS COUNTY, Pa. - Bensalem EMS head to call for help in an everyday unit. But now, the fleet has something special.
"The concept of a highly infectious disease ambulance allows us to protect our providers," said Battalion Chief Robert Elliott. He is describing their new ambulance designed to keep emergency workers safe while transporting patients.
"It’s the Ebola disease, Anthrax, it was Covid in the beginning. Any disease where a patient would present with a really high fever and respiratory symptoms which would require isolation," he said. And it’s the only highly infectious disease ambulance in the entire county.
"In the 2014 to 2016 Ebola epidemic that hit the U.S. rather quickly, we became part of a highly infectious disease task force with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. At that time it was very difficult for us to transport a patient with suspected Ebola or any type of infectious disease because we didn’t have the appropriate equipment," said Elliott. They started using the specialized ambulance last month which was purchased through a grant under CARES Act for coronavirus relief. Unlike traditional ambulances the driver and patient with the EMT and paramedic are in two closed in separate compartments. A big part of the isolation is the iso-pod.
"We disassemble it and put the patient into the iso-pod and seal them up. This also creates that negative pressure environment so none of the contaminated air exits. It’s all clean air that exits that filtration system," said Elliott.
They no longer have to seal doors and windows with plastic tape to create isolation and the ambulance cleans itself between transports.
"Our decontamination system is through a port that’s in the ceiling that sprays the disinfectant all over the entire ambulance," he said. UV lights in the ceiling are antibacterial and also help clean surfaces.
"After 16 minutes everything is completely disinfected. So we don’t have to worry about scrubbing every surface down," he demonstrated. On the outside Elliott shows us storage for their protective gear.
"It protects the provider 100%. It’s better than any mask that you could ever create. It’s a filter built into a respirator," said Elliott. The ambulance is mainly used to transport patients between one facility to a regional center in the state like the University of Pennsylvania. But they can also use it for 911 calls for suspected highly infectious disease patients.
"Our drill time has told us that we’re going to be able to get to these patients a lot quicker than we could previously," said Elliott.
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