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Susquehanna Regional EMS Director Tony Bixby on a follow-up call. Image: UPMC Williamsport

Some mild-symptom Covid-19 patients in Lycoming, Tioga, and Sullivan counties can now receive paramedical care without having to leave their homes.

Thanks to a new partnership between UPMC Williamsport and Susquehanna Valley Regional EMS (SREMS), even specimen collection can take place at a patient's home, if appropriate.

"If we identify patients who are well enough to stay home but may have mild symptomatology, we can send someone out to check up on them - to make sure they're doing okay and to make determinations if tests are required," Greg Frailey, OD, Emergency Medicine, UPMC Williamsport said. 

Patients will be identified through 911 pre-screening, physician referrals and emergency department referrals, Dr. Frailey said.

SREMS providers will come to suspected and confirmed Covid-19 patients' homes to triage them, collect specimens and perform check-ins under the guidance of UPMC medical command.

"If EMS encounters a patient they feel has some symptoms but doesn't necessarily need to come to ER department, they'll confer with medical command at Williamsport, Wellsboro, or Muncy, to set up a treatment or isolation plan for these folks," Dr. Frailey said.

SREMS will perform check-ins with patients in self-isolation or quarantine every 8 to 24 hours.

"The intention is to ID people who we will leave at home and ID people who have co-morbidities that may make them subject to a rapid progression," Dr. Frailey said.

The approach is a proactive measure to reduce the potential for patient surge to UPMC hospitals, UPMC Communications Manager Tyler Wagner said.

How much patient capacity will the program add to the health system?

"That's a precarious question to answer," Treuman explained.

There are 100 EMTS and paramedics within SREMS and another 35-40 SREMS providers in UPMC's pre-hospital department in Wellsboro, Mark Trueman, SREMS/UPMC Deputy Chief and Manager of Pre-hospital Operations said. 

"We see the Department of Health maps where Covid-19 is creeping up on our particular area. So far, we've kept our 911 volumes and our ER volumes below our normal capacity. The screening, comfort and follow-up is successful," said Trueman.

The best way to get a Covid-19 test is still through a referral from your primary care provider, Wagner emphasized.

"Calling 911 is not going to get you testing. That's something that we would reiterate again and again," Wagner said.

But the program helps ensure that the most vulnerable in our community won't struggle to find care.

"If people are in their home with transportation issues or there's other social determinants for why they can't come to the collection center, we here at UPMC Williamsport can extend that testing to them in their home," Wagner said.