COVID-19 is putting “incredible pressure” on London’s ambulance staff as frontline paramedics battle to treat patients amid the ongoing surge in new virus cases. Garrett Emmerson, CEO of the London Ambulance Service, told LBC‘s Tom Swarbrick that the situation was “really tough” but added the service was “coping.” However, ambulance workers described the crisis they face as a “war,” telling the broadcaster they disagreed with Mr Emmerson’s assessment of the current state of service.
Mr Emmerson said: “It’s been incredibly busy. Boxing Day was our second busiest day ever and in fact, we’ve surpassed that now, because New Year’s Day was even busier than that.
“We’re busier than we’ve ever been, frankly, both in our 999 services and indeed 111.
“My staff and volunteers are doing an incredible job out there every day, working probably harder than they’ve ever had to work before.
“We are managing to cope, it’s really tough but we are managing to cope at the moment.”
Mr Emmerson added: “To give you some context, we’re seeing double the number of calls we’d normally see at this time of year in 111, we’re probably 50 per cent busier than we’d be in the middle of winter when we’re normally at our busiest anyway.
“We’re 50 per cent busier again in 999 call answering, and more face-to-face incidents that our crews are having to go to than we’ve ever seen before.”
He continued: “It’s continuing to be at that level of 7,500 to 8,000 calls every day, so it’s the sustained pressure that I think is different.
“In the spring, we saw those kinds of numbers or a little below those numbers, but for a very short period.
But Mr Emmerson’s comments have caused outrage among some emergency medics who claimed his words failed to relay to the public just how serious the situation has become.
One paramedic contacted LBC to blast their CEO saying: “He’s corporate. He doesn’t wear a uniform, he wears a suit. We’re not talking about someone who knows how to do our job, or even understands what our job involves.
“I understand there is not a pool of people who are former paramedics who are qualified to be a chief executive, but to have a distinct lack of understanding of what we do means he doesn’t know what it’s like.
“All he has to do is walk downstairs into the control room, or speak to people on the ambulance station and I don’t think he’s doing that, he’s playing the politician and ultimately p****ng people off.
“If spoke to us he’d realise we’re fighting a f****ng war, and he’s talking about how we’re ‘coping’. It doesn’t look like coping to me”.
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Another paramedic, Richard, told the radio station: “It’s horrific. We’re tired. We’re so f****ng tired.
“There’s no escape. You go to work and you see some horrible stuff anyway but you come away from that and you would usually have other stuff to distract from that.
“In normal times you do some bad jobs and then you have an opportunity to de-stress from that and you can see your friends, spend time with family or play sports.
“We just don’t have that. On top of being in a very, very stressful job and the trauma it brings we also have to stay away from the people we love.”