Philly top paramedic works harder than ever to keep first responders safe from COVID-19

Lynne Adkins
May 28, 2020 - 12:14 pm
April Smallwood

Philadelphia Fire Department

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A paramedic has been named EMS Provider of the Year at the Philadelphia Fire Department. Capt. April Smallwood, infection control officer, says the coronavirus has changed her job.

It’s a critical role, to keep firefighters protected from needle sticks, hepatitis C infections, and tuberculosis. And Smallwood says, since the COVID-19 pandemic struck, it has gotten much busier.

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“Typically on a day, I can deal with maybe a half-dozen to 10 to 15 calls from members who are concerned, from the hospital, in regards to an infectious disease that our members potentially transported a patient with,” she said. “Now, there are days when I have 150 phone calls dealing with members and hospitals regarding patients that we transported with COVID-19.”

Smallwood has also been busy securing PPE for the firefighters and setting up protocols to keep them and their families safe. 

The pandemic has everyone on edge, making her job more important than ever.

“Calming fears, it’s a very scary thing,” she said. “It’s a new, evolving virus. There’s a lot more people affected by just being around one person who is positive.”

She says a tuberculosis exposure might knock five or six people off the job, but now an encounter with someone who has COVID-19 might take 20 firefighters off the job and put them in quarantine.