SBU’s MERT faces new challenges amid pandemic

photo: SBU MERT/Twitter

By Dustyn Green

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — Seventy calls. 

That is exactly what the St. Bonaventure University Medical Emergency Response Team juggled over the course of the fall semester.

According to MERT chief and SBU senior Maggie Cole, the club is made up of 50 volunteers, and approximately 25 are New York State certified Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) certified. Although the number of calls was the highest call volume since 2014, Cole said that only about 10 of them were potentially related to COVID-19.

 For Cole, the craziness began behind the scenes, long before students returned to campus in August.

“It was absolutely chaotic by the time Bona’s had us go home for the semester (in the spring),” Cole said. “We did not even have the new officer coming in.”

In a typical year, the new officer crew will accompany the outgoing officers on Spring Weekend in late April, or until the new officer is cleared. However, that was unable to happen, and the outgoing officers set up individual meetings with the incoming officers. Despite that challenge, Cole gave credit to Gary Segrue, the club’s advisor and SBU’s associate dean for campus safety, for preparing the team with the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) needed to enter a potential COVID-19 call and care for a patient.

“Mr. Segrue and safety and security were able to help us out a lot, they were able to get us the PPE we needed and were able to supply us for the whole semester,” Cole said.

Each year, MERT offers the EMT certification course to those who are interested. Despite the aforementioned challenges, 30 new members were able to become trained in stopping blood and administering CPR, as well as completing any necessary paperwork on the scene and taking vitals. 

According to Cole, things were “pretty regular” until the middle of the semester. She said the biggest difference was the number of intoxication calls, which drew the number of calls higher than normal.

The higher call volume brought Cole fear of burning out her fellow MERT members.

“Working with the same 20 to 25 EMTs for the whole semester, especially in a semester like this where we had no fall break,” she said.

Despite being shorthanded, and even losing a majority of their members near the end of the semester due to quarantine protocols, Cole believes the team held itself together quite well.

“I can’t believe we actually did this,” she said.

Since fall semester has come to an end, Cole and her fellow officers have began to secure PPE and complete any other preparations that are needed for next semester.