An emergency medical service (EMS) group has issued a warning about a U.S.-wide shortage of workers that could imperil the 911 system in some places.
“This has been a problem that has that been developing over several years because of chronic underfunding shortfalls from Congress for ambulance services, but certainly during the pandemic, things have hit a crisis level,” American Ambulance Association President Shawn Baird told Fox News on Oct. 10.
In recent months, “we’ve seen a tremendous amount of workforce attrition and schools had shut down paramedic training institutions and stopped graduating new students for the last year, so we’re suddenly in a severe shortfall,” Baird said.
His organization sent a letter to the House and Senate leadership saying the EMS system is facing a “facing a crippling workforce shortage,” noting it’s a “long-term problem that has been building for more than a decade.” The labor shortage, the letter warned, may undermine the 911 emergency system and deserves congressional attention.
In a study released (pdf) by the group’s 2019 Ambulance Industry Employee Turnover Study, the turnover for paramedics and EMTs was 20 percent to 30 percent. That number has increased since the COVID-19 pandemic started last year, Baird told Fox News.
“When you take a system that was already fragile and stretched it because you didn’t have enough people entering the field, then you throw a public health emergency and all of the additional burdens that it put on our workforce, as well as the labor shortages across the entire economy, and it really has put us in a crisis mode,” Baird told NBC on Oct. 8, warning about the 911 system.
Vaccine Mandates May Contribute to Shortage
In some areas, vaccine mandates have contributed to the EMS labor shortage, officials said.
Julie Keizer, the town manager of Waldoboro, Maine, told NewsCenter Maine that “the vaccine mandate has contributed to the loss of first responders.”
“I think part of the problem is everybody thought [workers] would conform because nobody wants to lose their jobs,” Keizer said.
“But when you look at the rate of pay for emergency workers, they can make more delivering packages than patients.”
Earlier this month, meanwhile, nearly 900 firefighters in Los Angeles filed a notice of their intent to sue the city over the Los Angeles vaccine mandate slated to go into effect in the coming weeks.
“The claims will be filed in Superior Court as an unlimited civil case pursuant to California Code of Civil Procedure,” Kevin McBride, attorney for the firefighters, wrote in a notice.
Deborah Clapp, executive director of Western Mass Medical Services in Massachusetts, told local media that overworked crews and low wages may contribute to the high turnover rate and staffing shortages.
“What happens if there’s a disaster of some sort? And a disaster doesn’t need to be very big in western Massachusetts,” she told Fox6. “We need all these logistics to be able to step into place and handle these events and, meanwhile, 911 is still being called for the heart attack, the baby being born, the car crash. … We have one trauma center in western Massachusetts. One level one trauma center.”
The American Ambulance Association didn’t immediately respond to a request by The Epoch Times for comment on vaccine mandates.