Behind-the-Scenes COVID Hero

When the pandemic hit, many municipalities, EMS agencies, and hospitals suffered extreme supply shortages. Hospital gowns, gloves, N95 masks, and other PPE were sent to hot spots like New York and California, and as a result, many first responders had to answer calls without protective gear.

But, thanks to Gina Smith, the Georgetown Fire Department had zero shortages. Before she found her way to the fire department as medical logistics coordinator, Gina worked for a statewide EMS company as an EMT and medical logistics coordinator, which allowed her to build relationships with medical suppliers. It’s because of those relationships that no Georgetown firefighter EMT had to respond to a call without protective gear during the pandemic. “We could have been in a bad situation,” she says. “I’ve heard horror stories from people, working for other agencies, who couldn’t get their hands on PPE; still answering calls but not provided the things they need.”

Gina remembers her own experience as a first responder, a career choice that dates back to childhood when she was inspired by TV shows about firefighters and law enforcement; “They made it look so cool.” Now, 30 years later, she still thinks it’s an awesome job, but nothing like the way Hollywood portrays it. “It’s not all glammed up. It’s not the edited pretty version.”

A WIN FOR GEORGETOWN

After helping the Georgetown Fire Department with a medical logistics computer program, Gina took over the program in 2019, unaware that a health crisis would threaten EMS agencies and fire departments just a few months later. She grew to love working for the fire department, with its fantastic staff and supportive community. “Georgetown loves its fire department,” she says. “You don’t see that in every community. People love how the city takes care of them, and it runs like a well-oiled machine.”

At first, Gina’s relationships with various medical suppliers just saved the fire department money, as she was able to shop around for equipment and medical supplies instead of sticking with one supplier. But what started as a matter of convenience became a necessity when the federal government took control of medical supply distribution and ordered equipment to be sent to areas hit hardest by COVID. Wiped-out warehouses, price gouging, and shipping delays ensued. “It was a big mess,” Gina recalls. “What saved me was my connections with representatives from these medical supply companies.”

As companies continuously set aside cases of protective equipment for her, Gina has gratefully bought whatever they have, even if it sometimes meant firefighter EMTs were decked out quite colorfully. “At one point they looked like Easter eggs with pink gowns and purple masks,” she says, adding that they were good sports about it and even got compliments on their attire from some Sun City folks.

Throughout the chaos of 2020, every fire station, including newly-minted Stations 6 and 7, has always been fully stocked with supplies. “We’ve never run out of anything—we haven’t even come close,” Gina notes. But as she says, she was just doing her job. “Pandemic or no pandemic, you just have to adjust to what’s going on. I didn’t expect this to come, but it did, and we made it through.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.