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FLORISSANT, Mo — The Florissant Valley Fire Department is facing what many departments are: more calls and limited resources.

“Physically and mentally, it is draining on the crews. That’s probably the biggest thing we’re seeing, and more guys are working overtime to fill the gaps,” said Florissant Chief Medical Officer Mark Flauter.

Flauter said the department made the choice Sunday to only transport patients to the three closest hospitals — Christian Hospital, Northwest Healthcare, and DePaul Hospital. He said the new restrictions come after seeing their highest number of COVID patients yet.

“We’re almost three times as many patients in 2022 as in 2021. So if we are going to more distant hospitals, that’s an extended amount of time that resource is not available for residents,” Flauter said.

He said distance isn’t the only thing limiting the department’s resources. Each time a team transports a COVID patient, that team must clean the entire ambulance.

“We wipe down pretty much every surface that came in contact with a patient ourselves,” said Mike Dubowski, an EMT for Florissant Valley. “We run our UVC light, and we run that for approximately 15 to 20 minutes. It’s a light that can kill any airborne pathogens such as COVID.”

Dubowski said the entire process could take more than half an hour and can increase ambulance wait times.

Flauter said about 92% of patients the department transports already go to the three area hospitals, and the restrictions are only temporary.

“It’s something we will reevaluate on a weekly basis and once those numbers start to decrease, we will obviously go back to transporting to those more district hospitals when we’re able,” Flauter said.

Flauter said there are expectations. The department will go outside the area for any pediatric or specialty care patients, such as cancer patients.