Pre-hospital emergency medical services (EMS) facilitate initial initiate care through basic life support (BLS) and/or advanced life support (ALS) and the transfer of injured or sick patients from the site of the emergency to the health facility where they will receive definitive care. EMS can also transfer patients from a health care facility to another higher-level or more complex facility, in what is known as an interhospital transfer.
Ambulance services are the best-known component of EMS and can be provided through different institutions including fire departments, volunteer organizations, university services, or hospitals that have their own ambulance service to cover their patients. Prehospital EMS also includes other components such as 911 call centers (aka public safety answering point PSAP) or emergency medical dispatch centers and first responder programs. All of these should integrate with the health services networks to ensure continuity of care for injured or sick patients.
During public health emergencies, pre-hospital EMS may be overwhelmed by the number of calls or the demand for medical transfers. It is therefore important that the agencies and/or organizations that provide pre-hospital care have the necessary tools and mechanisms not only to continue with daily activities but also to adjust their capacity in order to respond to specific scenarios such as COVID-19.
In this context, pre-hospital EMS are urged to implement readiness actions for the response to COVID-19 and to work in a coordinated and integrated manner with the health authorities in charge of the COVID-19 response.