Updated Economic Impact Survey – COVID-19

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Survey: Texas EMS Agencies Continue to Report Significant Economic Losses Due to the Pandemic

For more information:
Bobby Hillert (Texas EMS Alliance) – Bobby@txemsa.com | 214.728.7672 

July 8, 2020 – In a follow-up survey of Texas EMS agencies, an overwhelming majority of respondents indicated that they are suffering significant financial losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The survey, which was conducted by the Texas EMS Alliance and the Texas Ambulance Association at the end of June 2020, found that 94%of the 35 respondents reported significant financial losses.

An earlier survey of 80 Texas emergency medical services (EMS) agencies conducted in April 2020 reported that 91% are suffering significant financial losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Revenue losses from decreased call volume, accompanied by dramatically increased costs for supplies such as personal protective equipment and the rising number of uninsured due to more people being out of work, is creating a tremendous challenge for the agencies that provide ambulance service across Texas.

Click here to view the July survey results.

Click here to view the previous survey from April.

Sample

The two organizations conducted an online survey between June 29 through July 2, 2020, with 35 EMS agencies responding. The responses included entities that provide both 911 and non-emergency transport services to every type of Texas community, including urban and rural settings. The EMS agencies range in size from one licensed ambulance serving a rural community to providers with approximately 30 licensed ambulances that provide 911 service to multiple communities across the state.

Financial Effect

Ninety-four percent of the respondents indicated that the COVID-19 pandemic has “adversely affected the entity’s finances.” The questionnaire asked respondents to compare their revenue for the current time period vs. the same time period last year.

 

EMS Call Volume

Ninety-four percent of the respondents indicated that the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a decreased call volume.

A fire department that provides 911 service to a large South Texas city indicated that its call volume initially dropped. However, it has returned to normal.

Revenue

Of the 35 entities that responded to the question about revenue as a result of the pandemic compared to July 2019, only two indicated no decrease.

  • 6% of respondents = No change in revenue.
  • 17% of respondents = Less than 20% decrease in revenue.
  • 6% of respondents = 20% decrease in revenue.
  • 14% of respondents = 30% decrease in revenue.
  • 29% of respondents = 40% decrease in revenue.
  • 29% of respondents = Greater than 50% decrease in revenue.

The April survey featured similar results related to revenue.

Emergency Transports

Once again, the survey demonstrated that Texas EMS agencies have experienced significant drops in emergency transports as a result of the pandemic.

The April 2020 survey asked respondents to compare their drop in emergency transports for the time period of March 1 – April 20, 2019, vs. March 1 – April 20, 2020. The most recent survey asked respondents to examine their drop in emergency transports for the time period of April 21 – June 21, 2019, versus April 21 – June 21, 2020.

The July survey added an extra two months of analysis, and the July survey’s results found that emergency transports had dropped even further as the pandemic stretched on for two additional months.

Of the 28 entities that provided a response in the July survey:

  • 32% of the respondents reported a 20% decrease in emergency transports. (Compared to 29% in April.)
  • 7% reported a 30% decrease in emergency transports. (Compared to 38% in April.)
  • 29% reported a 40% decrease in emergency transports. (Compared to 7% in April.)
  • 32% reported a 50% decrease in emergency transports. (Compared to 26% in April.)

Non-Emergency Transports

The survey also asked respondents to compare non-emergency transports for the same time period. Despite the return of elective surgeries in Texas, EMS agencies still reported

Of the 24 entities that provided a response in July:

  • 17% of the respondents reported a 20% decrease in non-emergency transports. (Compared to 23% in April.)
  • 17% reported a 30% decrease in non-emergency transports. (Compared to 25% in April.)
  • 25% reported a 40% decrease in non-emergency transports. (Compared to 23% in April.)
  • 42% reported a 50% decrease in non-emergency transports. (Compared to 30% in April.)

Cost Increases

The pandemic has created a number of new costs for Texas EMS agencies, including additional personal protective equipment (PPE) for EMS professionals. The July survey asked respondents if they have experienced additional costs as a result of the pandemic.

Thirty-four entities reported on their cost of transport compared to the beginning of this year in January. The July survey found that:

  • 9% reported a decrease.
  • 29% reported no change.
  • 21% reported a 10% or less increase.
  • 15% reported a 20% increase.
  • 27% reported an increase of 25% or more.


Respondents’ Comments

A number of the respondents provided comments to the survey.

The return to elective surgery has not necessarily increased revenue – Some EMS agencies expected the return of elective surgery to result in a large increase of revenue for non-emergency transports. However, one respondent indicated that the return of surgery has only resulted in a gradual increase in transports.

Not all 911 providers have local government backing – While many EMS agencies that provide 911 services to Texas communities are operated by the government, some are actually set up as non-profits or as private entities that contract with the local government and do not receive tax subsidies for providing the 911 service. Several respondents indicated that they are concerned that they may not have enough support from local governments to continue to operate the same level of 911 service.

A 20% revenue decrease can be detrimental – One rural respondent indicated that a 20% decrease in revenue and increasing costs can be detrimental in the long-run for a small rural provider.

Increasing costs related to the pandemic – A number of respondents indicated that the unexpected costs related to the pandemic – such as PPE, increasing personnel costs through overtime and illness exposure, and increasing medication costs – will be difficult to address.

Graphics from this release may be found and downloaded at www.txemsa.com.  For additional information, or to request a contact in your local EMS office, please contact: bobby@txemsa.com.