Coronavirus: Precautions underway to protect paramedics, hospital staff

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- With COVID-19 cases on the rise, first responders with the Los Angeles County Fire Department are stepping up their training with personal protective equipment.

"For the majority of the incidents that we respond to, we wear latex gloves that protect us and the patient," said Sean Ferguson, an inspector with the county agency. "However, based on a line of questioning that the dispatcher receives or through our assessment of the patient on scene, we may ramp up the level of personal protective equipment that we do wear."

This includes masks, face shields and protective suiting.

Dr. Clayton Kazan, medical director of L.A. County Fire, says there have been regular updates issued to make sure firefighters have the latest information and guidelines.

Hospitals are gearing up as well. Before you can enter Providence St. Joseph Medical Center, staff nurses will ask a series of questions.

"If a visitor comes in who has a fever, we don't let them come in," said Dr. Stephen Kishineff, co-medical director of the Emergency Department. "We don't want them to visit our patients and get our patients sick. We don't want to transmit any flu or COVID-19 or any virus."

He described a similar procedure in the emergency room. A nurse greets patients at the door and anyone with a cough will be asked to wear a mask. Kishineff said his staff is also taking measures to protect everyone in the waiting areas.

"We have carved out the waiting room into two waiting rooms and patients that have fever and a cough are moved into one waiting room," he said. "And other patients into another waiting room."

Patients are very concerned about COVID-19 infection. This has prompted more people to ask about testing.

"We'll do a nasal swab or send a sputum sample to the L.A. County Department of Public Health lab," Kishineff said. "We don't do them in-house and then they will give us a result within a day or two."

Hospitals are dealing with people demanding to get tested for the novel coronavirus. It's up to doctors to decide, but they still need a logical reason to perform the test.

"If there's no fever and no cough, there's really no need to test," Kishineff said.
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