Muskogee city and county leaders are making plans in case they have an ambulance shortage. At Monday night's city council meeting, the city agreed to use its police officers to help transport paramedics to people who need help.
Muskogee County EMS is sending some patients to neighboring states as a precaution to help prevent nearby hospitals from getting full. However, the result is a shortage of ambulances. Muskogee County EMS spokesperson Trish German said they have a plan to prevent that from happening, by partnering with Muskogee Police.
"They came up with a memorandum of understanding, a MOU, when we will put one of our disaster team members in a police car with a police office and they respond to medical calls," German said.
The disaster team member is a paramedic or EMT. They will ride with an officer to the patient and help the patient on location. If the patient needs to go to the hospital, the team member will stay until an ambulance gets available.
German said Muskogee County EMS runs about 15 ambulances across the county every day, but if a team must go to another state, then that ambulance could be gone for an entire shift.
"With COVID-19, sometimes there’s just not the beds available in our area, in the Tulsa area, or Oklahoma City. We're looking at even longer transports to Arkansas, even Kansas. Now, we're looking at a lot of drive time or ambulances are going to be away from us," German said.
Muskogee Police Chief Johnny Teehee said he believes this new plan is the first of its kind in Oklahoma.
"Anytime there's an emergency that paramedics are going to, they will use lights and sirens, and we will have the same ability to that, it's just a matter of them needing a ride," said Teehee.
Teehee said their officers have been wearing masks and sanitizing their vehicles throughout the pandemic, and plan to continue those safety protocols with this plan.
Muskogee city and county officials said this agreement is only going to be used as a last resort.