SPRINGFIELD, NJ — With more cases of COVID-19, commonly known as coronavirus, popping up at the local, county, state and nationwide levels, the lives and plans of multiple township residents, business and organizations has changed drastically.
The Springfield First Aid Squad (SFAS) is no different. TAPinto Springfield spoke with President Elizabeth Fritzen and EMS Chief Apu Mullick, to see how members of the squad have had to change the way they do their job to deal with this new reality.
Fritzen, whose job as president mostly deals with the administrative side of the SFAS, said that as far as her duties go, the squad is taking proper precautions, including holding virtual meetings in lieu of in-person ones.
Additionally, the SFAS is making the effort to keep its members stocked with proper personal protective equipment (PPE), which she noted is sometimes hard to order, due to the high demand.
"We are making every safety precaution," Fritzen said. "Any pieces of equipment our members need, they will have if we can get it ... administratively, we are making sure that the field officers know that if they need to order something for the safety of our members who are on the front lines of this, order it. If we can get it, that's another thing."
However, Fritzen noted that the added cost of PPE was well worth it to keep the volunteers and part-time workers at the squad safely protected while they do their job.
"Our members are number one," Fritzen said. "They've gotta take care of themselves first. These are all volunteers, and we've really had no pushback from our members, as far as providing the service that we do. So again, safety is, from [an] administrative end, my number one priority."
Fritzen noted that from her end, the finances of the squad had also been impacted by coronavirus, due to the sheer amount of equipment that they have needed to order.
"Absolutely, as far as the personal protective equipment, we've had to obviously have on stock a lot more than we normally would, so you're looking at expense there," Fritzen said. "But again, our people can not do the job safely without it. So I think it's kind of a no-brainer that we have to get it."
As Mullick noted, the volunteers and part-time workers who make up the SFAS have had to be on a much more careful footing with regard to protecting themselves and their loved ones.
"The biggest operational impact is to our personnel," he said. "It's easy for someone to unwittingly get exposed. We did have one of our staff members who was exposed at his other job ... where he was treating a patient for non-COVID related symptoms and ultimately found that his patient was COVID-19 positive.
"Also how it affects our personnel in terms of the worry that they might be bringing this disease home to their friends and family, or that they themselves might have some underlying medical condition that makes them among the more vulnerable population."
Another thing the squad is doing to properly social distance is going out with fewer crew members per call, in order to maximize the amount of space between each crew member. While trained personnel are always on the ambulance, this means that trainees are often no longer riding alongside their more experienced counterparts.
And as for the turnaround time between calls, the length of time has increased because of a number of factors, including decontamination of personnel, equipment and vehicles has increased. Additionally, delays at the hospital have contributed to that increase as well.
However, the SFAS is still committed to providing their usual level of professional services, no matter what the situation with COVID-19 may bring.
As for how the public can support the squad during this time, Fritzen said there were several key ways to accomplish this.
"We certainly could use the public support at this time," Fritzen said. "Donations are always accepted, and we would hope that the public will recognize the fact that we're bearing extra expense now with things that we have to purchase, that we normally wouldn't have had to do ... Donations are certainly welcome, and we would appreciate that support."