McAllen – It is not uncommon to drive around the Rio Grande Valley and spot multiple Medcare EMS’ vehicles on their way to provide emergency services. With over thirty emergency vehicles in its fleet and the largest emergency medical service in South Texas, Medcare EMS finds itself continuously rising to emergency occasions all around the RGV, but 2020 has been different. As the COVID-19 pandemic placed a strain on local emergency departments and responders, Medcare EMS was asked to do more than usual while trying to keep safe. Medcare EMS, CEO, Ronnie Ontiveros acknowledges that grappling with COVID-19 has placed extra stress on the company and personnel. “At Medcare EMS, we make sure to hire, train, and educate quality employees and equip them with superior equipment, but no one could have imagined the amount of pressure we would all be faced with,” Ronnie said. Like other frontline workers, Medcare EMS has risen to the occasion by performing their jobs while worrying about their safety and their own families’ safety. “On any other year, our employees would have performed their functions with only the patient’s safety and care in mind. Now, our employees are worried about their own health and take extra precautions to make sure they don’t put their families at risk,” Ronnie said. “But even with this added stress, we are confident that our people are true professionals and are always performing at their best.” Although COVID-19 came as a surprise for many communities, Medcare EMS has long been prepared to take charge in emergencies of this stature. Their staff continuously goes through rigorous education and training and stay updated on public health safety guidelines. “Our staff is highly trained in infectious disease control, and our company provides all the equipment needed. We watched the international and national trends of this pandemic and were able to group and plan very early in the process. Our Medical Director quickly pivoted and changed protocols needed when dealing with COVID-19 patients.” The RGV has struggled with a high number of positive cases needing hospitalization and emergency transportation. Ronnie explains, “We often found ourselves answering to triple the number of emergency calls compared to any other year. Aside from COVID-19 patients, we still had to answer to emergency calls that included car accidents and other health emergencies.” She is thankful for the local county and city leadership that has placed mandates and recommendations that now seem to be helping with a slight decrease in the number of emergency response needed. Still, the stress for Ronnie and her team will not be over. Emergency response services often have a revenue shortfall that creates extra financial stress during pandemics like COVID-19. “I don’t think a lot of people are aware that we never turn away a patient, whether they can or cannot pay for our services. We are not funded through local governments or local hospitals,” says Ronnie. This means that Medcare EMS provides these emergency response services upfront in the hopes that they can get paid by the patient’s private insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid. In many cases, ambulance services may bill the patients for services the insurance didn’t cover, but the recovery rate for payment is low. “Regardless of everyone’s situation, Medcare EMS is dedicated to responding to every single emergency in the RGV. Our top priority is providing emergency services quickly and carefully because every patient’s life is important.” Medcare EMS’ commitment to the health and safety of their community does not go unnoticed. Ronnie just accepted The Monitor’s Reader’s Choice Award for the 8th consecutive year in a row. “Getting this award for the 8th time in a row is extra sweet this year. We win this award because our community votes for us. So, this added stress on our company and personnel makes it worth it. We will continue to rise to the occasion again and again.”
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