MEDIC adjusts non-emergency responses amid pandemic staffing shortages

MECKLENBURG COUNTY, N.C. — Mecklenburg EMS has changed its response time for certain non-emergency 911 calls, meaning some people may now not see an ambulance for up to an hour.

The agency said it is also no longer conducting out-of-the-county transports.

For months, MEDIC has been dealing with staffing shortages tied to COVID-19 cases and it’s impacting call times.

The agency’s executive director sent a letter to employees in December, which Channel 9 obtained, that said one of the holiday weekends was challenging with 17 COVID-19 related absences and an unpredictable high call volume.

He said MEDIC is working on some new strategies, including a new request for a strike team from FEMA.

If someone is dealing with an emergency like a heart attack, MEDIC said it will still get to you as fast as they can, but if someone calls 911 for something less severe, they could wait up to an hour.

“Reminding folks that if you’re seeking COVID testing, if you’re seeking a vaccine or if just if you’re COVID positive and worried, ambulance transport is not an appropriate method to receive medical care, you will not receive a test any quicker and you may not receive care any quicker if you’re a low priority patient,” said Jonathan Studnek, MEDIC deputy director.

The agency said they’ll even order an Uber or Lyft ride for people who meet certain criteria.

Officials plan to reevaluate this plan in about a month.

(WATCH BELOW: Mecklenburg EMS facing turnover amid spike in COVID-19 transports)