SOMERVILLE (CBS) – As concerns grow about how COVID-19 could overwhelm our health care system, Cataldo Ambulance Service is hoping its Smart Care vans can reduce stress on hospital workers by testing and treating patients from home.

Each van is equipped with everything a first responder may need in an emergency, but it’s not an ambulance. The goal is to avoid taking people to a hospital.

“We’re able to administer treatments in the home,” said paramedic Mike Simon, “and hopefully keep that person in their home.”

Smart Care paramedics will also be able to test for COVID-19 in the coming days. Cataldo Ambulance Service Vice President Dan Hoffenberg said, “We’re working in concert with some hospitals who are asking us for assistance to go do testing on site.”

The tests would need to be picked up from local hospitals. “We’d pick up the test at the hospital, go deliver that test to the patient at their home, and then bring that test back to the hospital,” Hoffenberger said.

Paramedic Stacy Caterina said it’s the best way to keep the risk of exposure down to a minimum. “We’ll be able to go into the home of the patient with symptoms and test them for COVID-19 and keep them there and quarantined,” instead of having them go to the hospital.

Caterina said right now, with so much uncertainty, it’s important to keep the patient volume as low as possible at local hospitals. “That will help our hospitals in keeping people out of there who just need a test, and leave the beds open for the more severe respiratory patients,” Caterina said.

It’s not an emergency service, so not everyone can call for one of the Smart Care vans. Cataldo only works with certain hospitals, so you’d need to ask your doctor. Hoffenberg said, “We don’t work directly with insurance companies. We work directly with health care institutions and partners in health care, whether that’s a hospital or whether that’s a hospice.”

For patients at those institutions, the service does not come with an added cost. “Patients aren’t seeing any bills for this,” Hoffenberg said. “Their bills are being covered by the hospitals.”


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