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EMT and paramedic shortage puts emergency services in crisis mode across the state

Published: Aug. 16, 2021 at 5:51 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - There are about 1,000 open positions for emergency medical technicians and paramedics in the state of Michigan. It’s was already an issue, but when the pandemic hit it became a crisis.

“It can cause extended scene times, extended response times,” said Mercy Ambulance Paramedic Joe Huebner. “Generally, with our schedule, we do have days off and with having to do extra shifts that is weighing very heavily on our staff.”

Mercy paramedic Joe Huebner says the shortage of workers not only causes burnout, but causes longer response times for emergencies, which can create a life and death situation.

“The pandemic has created a different environment, EMS agencies they are crisis managers by nature, they are used to triaging the situation figuring out what’s wrong finding a way to fix it and moving on, but we are at a point now where we don’t have the people to triage the situation anymore,” said Angela Madden, Executive Director of the Michigan Association of Ambulance Service.

Mercy Ambulance is short 10 full-time paramedics and over 20 part-time workers.

“We used to have a staff of thirty that were part timers that was a contributing factor of why we are hurting there are none in the pipeline,” said Dennis Palmer, President and CEO of Mercy Ambulance.

Palmer said they don’t have the influx of the younger generation coming from local colleges anymore.

“You want to be double medic per ambulance that way there isn’t so much exhaustion and demand on one person in the back of the ambulance that way they can rotate every other call,” Palmer said.

“This staffing crisis and reimbursement crisis effects all agencies; it is a statewide issue. In fact, it’s a nationwide issue,” Madden said. “If I don’t have EMTs working I definitely will not have incoming paramedics to work, so we are retiring more people than we are bringing up into this system and that’s not sustainable for EMS statewide.”

“The transports are either being denied or not we had to prioritize and cover our 9-1-1 services” Palmer said.

Palmer says raising pay and adding benefits is only a short-term solution, they want to get to the root of the problem.

“Our biggest one is an ask for $10 million general fund from the state budget, that $10 million along with our federal draw down will help increase our Medicaid reimbursement rates up to parody with Medicare,” Madden said.

He said the extra money will help keep the agency afloat and allow them to offer more money for new hires.

Mercy Ambulance representatives said it’s been a challenge to keep the schedule filled with EMTs and paramedics. They went from having applicants every day to now only being able to hire five people in the last month on top of losing three others.

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