The American Ambulance Association (AAA) warned in a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that the emergency response system has reached a “breaking point” as the coronavirus rages across the country.
"The 911 emergency medical system throughout the United States is at a breaking point," Aarron Reinert, the president of the American Ambulance Association, said in the Nov. 25 letter obtained by The Hill. "Without additional relief, it seems likely to break, even as we enter the third surge of the virus in the Mid-West and West."
Reinert told HHS officials that further funding was necessary for ambulance operators to maintain the services they have provided throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
The group has asked for a total of $2.6 billion in federal funds to enable emergency medical services to handle the pandemic. CEO Maria Bianchi told CNN, which first reported the letter, that the requested funds would give every ambulance nationwide an extra $43,500 to handle needs such as protective equipment.
"Given the substantially heavier burden that AAA members are carrying during the pandemic, we reiterate our request for HHS to provide additional funding from the Congressionally allocated dollars for the Provider Relief Fund specifically to ground ambulance service providers to ensure the stability of these essential providers and suppliers as the country continues to battle the pandemic," Reinert said in the letter.
Bianchi told the network that the nation’s 60,000 ambulances are being “stretched and stretched and stretched and stretched, like a rubber band” as cases surge across the country.
"I think the concern is that rubber band breaking and that we're close to that point,” she added.
The request comes as the U.S. hit an all-time single-day high for coronavirus deaths Wednesday with 3,157. The figure is 20 percent higher than April 15’s 2,603, the previous all-time daily high. A total of 273,799 people have died from the virus in the U.S.
The Hill has reached out to HHS for comment.
— Updated at 8:49 a.m.