Hennepin EMS community paramedics and MVNA lead the charge in COVID-19 community testing
Many of us have heard the phrase, “It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon” when it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic. As a second wave of COVID cases begin in states around the country, prevention and testing is needed to support the health of our community as we brace for another possible rise in cases in MN. One of the groups leading the charge for testing is our community paramedics.
“At an EMS command staff meeting in February, Dr. John Hick briefed us on COVID and that it would soon be in the United States,” says Amber Brown, Hennepin EMS Deputy Chief who leads our team of community paramedics. “I began to think about how our community paramedic team could help in the effort to slow the spread of COVID. Community testing quickly came to my mind.”
Amber began by reaching out to different areas at Hennepin to find out if it was possible to get her team the training needed to begin testing for COVID out in the community. After reaching out to Dr. Danielle Robertshaw and Caren Gaytko, it turned out they were working on the same idea; community testing was the next logical step in the fight against COVID-19. “We collaborated and began working on this effort together,” says Amber.
By the end of March, the team of community paramedics went through training and began the process of testing individuals in the community. By April, there were requests for large-group testing. “In mid-April, five wellness nurses from MVNA joined the testing team. This brought Danielle Rice from MVNA to the team and she has been invaluable to the team, spearheading the administrative and business aspect of this project,” said Amber. “She has been the glue of our team.”
So far, the focus for testing has been on populations who are at higher risk. Since late April, the team of community paramedics and wellness RNs have held testing events at a variety of locations including at Higher Ground, The Glenwood, People Serving People, Cedar/Riverside public housing, and most recently at Salvation Army Harbor Light. “All testing events have been a partnership with Hennepin EMS, Hennepin Healthcare, Hennepin County Public Health, Minneapolis Public Housing, and MDH. During each event, we have tested anywhere from 30-250 individuals,” says Amber. Turnout varies based on the time and day of the week. The team continues to fine tune their process in order to find the most effective time for these events to be held to ensure our community has access to COVID-19 testing.