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System to transfer Arkansas COVID patients to hospitals goes live Wednesday

A new program for the state's healthcare system will allow doctors to send patients fighting COVID-19 to the next best hospital if some start to fill up.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — A new program for the state's healthcare system will allow doctors to send patients fighting COVID-19 to the next best hospital if some start to fill up.

COVID Com goes live Wednesday at 7 a.m. at the MEMS headquarters in downtown Little Rock. 

"I'm very confident that by 7:01 we may have our first call," Jeff Tabor said.

Jeff Tabor is the program manager. COVID Com is an extension of Trauma Com, which MEMS has operated for 10 years. 

EMS and doctors use it to find the best hospital to send someone who is severely injured. MEMS takes every call in Arkansas and coordinates with the closest EMS to transfer patients.

"Motor vehicle collisions, falls, penetrating trauma, work accidents," Tabor said.

Now, COVID-19 patients are added to that list, in the case of the hospital they show up at for treatment is full.

"That physician would contact COVID Com and utilizing a web-based system, we'll coordinate his request to the closest, most appropriate hospital," Tabor said.

MEMS will coordinate every transfer in the state, taking the burden off the hospitals.

"That way they can continue treating the patients in their emergency departments," Tabor said.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed off on adding COVID Com to the MEMS system two weeks ago. At this point, no new staff has been added to the department.

"But, we are going to absorb it with our normal process and as the volume expands, we will expand," Tabor said.

COVID Com allows the healthcare system to utilize every bed available, this way no one is turned away from treatment.

"It is a one-stop-shop and we call the facility and coordinate the transfer there," Tabor said.