Increased ambulance on-scene times but unaffected response times during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in Southern Denmark

Jennifer Rosenkjær Eskol, Floor Dijkstra Zegers, Daniel Wittrock, Annmarie Touborg Lassen, Søren Mikkelsen*


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Background: During the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, a lockdown was imposed on the Danish society. Reports from other countries that were hit by the COVID-19 pandemic before Denmark instilled fear of flooding of the emergency departments. To mitigate this flooding, increased competencies were conveyed to the paramedics in the ambulances aiming to allow for a release of a higher number of patients prehospitally. The increased competencies in the prehospital personnel were expected to increase the on-scene time and thus the total workload of the ambulances potentially resulting in delays in the acute care. We sought to elucidate the effects of the pandemic on the workload of the prehospital system during the first wave. Methods: This was a retrospective study using operational data from the regional emergency medical dispatch centre in the Region of Southern Denmark. We collected the number of ambulance runs, the response times, the on-scene times, and the mission outcome of all ambulance runs with lights and sirens in the Region of Southern Denmark during the first wave of the pandemic. We compared the numbers with a similar period in the year before. Results: Compared with the year before the pandemic we observed a 10.3% reduction in call volume and a corresponding reduction in the total number of missions with lights and sirens. We found an increase in on-scene times in both missions with patients conveyed to hospital (20.6 min vs. 18.7 min) and missions with non-conveyed patients (37.4 min versus 30.7 min). The response times were unaffected. Conclusion: The increased on-scene times of the ambulances may largely be attributed to time utilised to exert the increased competencies concerning treat-and-release of patients. Despite an increased on-scene time of the ambulances, we believe that the combination of a reduction in the number of total missions and the existing capacity in the ambulance service in the Region of Southern Denmark nullified the prolongation of ambulance response times that was seen in other countries during the pandemic. This capacity allowed for time spent performing in-depth examinations of patients with the potential to be released at the scene.

TidsskriftBMC Emergency Medicine
Antal sider6
StatusUdgivet - 9. apr. 2022

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