EMS industry seeing shortage brings decade long problem to the surface
ELKHART, Ind. --- Nationwide, the EMS (emergency medical services) industry is facing a shortage of personnel. This huge problem in healthcare has been ongoing for over a decade, but the pandemic was the event that really exposed the realities.
"Over the last ten years, we've had fewer paramedics coming into the industry. It's been a constant decline for the number of newly certified individuals entering our profession, and it's been going down, and not going up," said the President of the Indiana EMS Association Nathaniel Metz.
This decline is being seen all over the country but is specific to Elkhart County, where the EMS industry has a hard time competing against others that may pay better.
"Especially in Elkhart County where you just have, such a boom right now in the RV industry, and some of the hourly rates that are out there it makes it challenging. Then Covid has definitely added another layer to the challenge for sure," said the Operations Director of Tri-County Ambulance Service Jeremy Mast.
Other jobs are trying to incentive workers, whereas the EMS industry hasn't adjusted their rates in decades.
"I get paid the same today as I did back in the 1970s, and matter of fact, if you look at some of our rates we've actually decreased some from the 70s," said Metz.
The financial situation is debilitating, and combine that with the mental toll, you have a lot of folks asking the question.
Why am I even here?
Metz explained, "Whenever your looking at the number of hours that providers are working. It starts to pay hell on their emotional state, mental state, family state, and to put it frankly. I just had a conversation with an EMT who just graduated and became a nurse, why would they stay?"
Experts say, the lack of funding from the federal level, doesn't help the situation either.
"EMS was not mentioned in the CARES Act, less than 1% of that money went to EMS agencies," said Metz.
Currently, they are experiencing new levels of stress, and that is potentially exposing their loved ones to Covid-19.
"You have to make sure your taking care of yourself so your not taking anything homes with you. We have numerous people that help, maybe grandparents or parents, who are in that age bracket of higher risk. They are concerned about what they may be having contact with here," said Operations Director Mast.
The EMS system needs help, and it took a pandemic, to show how much change is needed in our EMS system.