Ambulances sent to North Carolina counties, including Mecklenburg, for COVID-19 aid

MECKLENBURG COUNTY, N.C. — Nine North Carolina counties are benefiting from 25 ambulances and their crews provided by the federal government to help locals struggling to respond to the spikes in calls during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Division of Emergency Management says the two-person ambulance crews are ready to work after receiving personal protective gear and communications gear on Monday.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency sent the “advanced life support” ambulances after the state requested 40 such ambulances and 10 “basic life support” models.

“While it’s not the full complement we requested, we know medical resources are extremely limited across the nation right now, and we are grateful for this assistance from our federal partners,” state Emergency Management Director Will Ray said in a news release.

The crews are assigned to Brunswick, Franklin, Graham, Guilford, Macon, Mecklenburg, New Hanover, Pender and Robeson counties. The ambulances could be assigned elsewhere after 10 days.

MEDIC deputy director Jon Studnek said the crew members will answer non-emergency calls at hospitals in Mecklenburg County, meaning they will transport patients home or to long-term care facilities. He said it will help reduce hospital capacity, allow the agency to maintain response times and answer the most important calls.

“Our crews have been working mandatory overtime since July. They are tired and the system is stressed,” Studnek said. ”Better to be prepared to maintain timely responses to life-threatening emergency, then to get behind the eight ball and cause stress to our patients and our system.”

In August, Channel 9′s Gina Esposito reported that field crews were working mandatory overtime, and were offered bonuses for taking on certain shifts. Staffing is still a problem, and as of Monday the agency said it’s still short 28 field positions.

MEDIC initially requested 15 ambulances and 30 crew members. The agency said it’s still pushing for that.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

(Watch Below: Mecklenburg EMS facing turnover amid spike in COVID-19 transports)