VIGO/SULLIVAN CO., Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) — As hospitals across the country are pushing capacity limits, ambulances are seeing an increase in COVID-19 related calls.

That, mixed with a higher volume of emergency calls, could mean longer wait times if you or a loved one need an ambulance.

Providers like Trans Care Ambulance and Sullivan County Ambulance Services have placed new protocols in their ambulances to treat each patient as if they were COVID-positive and each vehicle must be extensively cleaned after each use.

“I think with the pandemic, it’s been more mentally exhausting,” paramedic Katie Morgan said. “It can be physically exhausting.”

In 2020, Vigo County EMS received 13,952 COVID-19 related calls. That number jumped to 15,715 calls in 2021. From last October to January 2022, nearly 4,974 calls have been COVID-related.

Those numbers account for both Vigo County and Terre Haute.

That steady increase mixed with already existing emergency calls is creating difficulties for providers like Trans Care Ambulance.

“At times it has put a tax on our system,” Trans Care Ambulance Clinical Director Matt Willham said. “We do our best for quick turn arounds and quick responses. Lately there hasn’t been many delays, but there has been times where there’s been quite a bit of calls that would cause slight delays.”

Morgan said at times she is unsure what hospitals have patient availability due to staffing and bed shortages.

“There is a full loaded waiting room and there’s so many patients in the hall,” she said. “For me, it’s concerning for my patients because if they are sick, I want them to have quick care. You can’t when you don’t have beds.”

Morgan added that Sullivan County EMS has received numerous non-emergency calls about COVID concerns. She said self-assessing and using other medical outlets is ideal for those non-emergency situations.

“You have your two or three medic trucks out on a COVID call for a fever or weakness, or COVID weakness,” she said. “It does hinder because you have one or maybe two basic crews out on what could be a potential bad car accident.”