News Flash

Pittsylvania County News

Posted on: October 6, 2021

Pittsylvania County Public Safety Encourages Community to Seek Appropriate Level of Care

Public Safety Reminder - 911 is for Emergencies

Amid frequent hospital diversions and staffing shortages, Pittsylvania County Public Safety, along with the many volunteer EMS agencies across the county, is encouraging the community to seek the appropriate level of care when dealing with injuries and illnesses.

“It is essential that we reserve the highest level of medical care, both at the hospital and from our county EMS providers, for those that truly need it,” said Chris Slemp, Pittsylvania County Public Safety Director. “We encourage anyone who is experiencing a true medical emergency to call 911, and we will provide the best service to that patient as quickly as we can. However, we request that those who are dealing with minor injuries and illnesses do not call 911 or attempt to get care from the hospital or emergency room. This will reserve those critical resources, including time, for the most serious medical emergencies where every minute matters."

As a result of an increase in COVID-19 patients and staffing difficulties, all the hospitals in the region have gone on diversion at different points in the past few months. When a hospital goes on diversion, that means it diverts incoming patients to alternate locations, putting an additional strain on the hospitals that are still accepting patients.  

Diversions also put a significant burden on Pittsylvania County Public Safety and the many volunteer EMS agencies that work in the county. Typically, patients in Pittsylvania County that need transport service are taken to the hospital in Danville or the emergency room in Gretna, though it is not uncommon for patients to be taken to hospitals in Martinsville, Roanoke, Lynchburg, Halifax, or Eden, NC, depending on the severity of the situation and the area of the county where the emergency is happening. When hospitals go on diversion, patients can’t be transported to the location that makes the most sense based on the location. Due to the size of Pittsylvania County, just one hospital going on diversion can result in increases in transport times.

When many hospitals go on diversion, and often at the same time, however, a few things happen:

  • (1) Transports end up taking significantly longer, which means that ambulances – as well as those driving them and working with the patient – are out of commission for longer. The increase in time needed per call leads to  
  • (2) A need for additional staffing or volunteer availability to cover calls while the first crew is out transporting patients. Even when additional staffing can be found, this also leads to
  • (3) A need for additional ambulances and transport vehicles to be ready at all times.

Even while the hospitals have been short-staffed and going on diversion, the Pittsylvania County Dispatch Center has continued to see heavy volume of 911 calls. Over the past few months, the Dispatch Center has received approximately 100 more calls per month than the number of calls coming in two years ago, and many of these are for people who don’t necessarily need emergency services. To ensure the highest level of service and that there are no delays for those experiencing true medical emergencies, Pittsylvania County Public Safety asks for everyone to use judgement before calling 911 and to consider visiting an urgent care location or primary care physician for minor injuries and illnesses.

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