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Kentucky emergency responders discuss worker shortage

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Posted at 6:25 PM, May 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-04 18:32:10-04

JESSAMINE COUNTY, Ky. (LEX 18) — There is a shortage of emergency responders in the U.S. and the bluegrass state. One emergency medical leader in Jessamine County who has served for more than a decade says the shortage is the worst it's ever been.

Jessamine County EMS says they have enough people on staff, but things could change at any time. Over the past few years, they have adjusted their service model from Plan A, having a paramedic go out every call.

But right now, “We're in plan B where we don’t have a paramedic on every ambulance. We have a paramedic on quick response vehicles, and they get dispatched to you. But, on occasion, if we don’t have enough paramedics, then likely you’re still going to get advanced life support care with an advanced EMT,” says Jessamine County Executive Director for Ambulance Services, Jamie Goodpaster.

There is no Plan C.

A Kentucky Board of EMS 2019 study shows workers want better hours, better mental health, and better pay. The report also reflects that an EMT’s average pay is $11.88/hr, an Advanced EMT’s is $13.30/hr, and a Paramedic makes $15.62/hr.

Goodpaster says, "It’s becoming difficult to retain and keep and recruit employees if you don’t have a healthy work culture and you don’t have a good compensation package."

Jessamine County EMS takes between 9,000 to 10,000 calls each year and says there’s not enough training across the state for new paramedics.

The Kentucky Board of Emergency Medical Services reports that 57% of Kentucky’s more than 14,000 emergency providers are affiliated with a service. More funding for EMS could mean lowered service bills after you dial 911.

The board’s Executive Director, Mike Poynter, says, "We've got to think about the cost of operations and if we decrease the cost of operations, we could potentially decrease the cost to the end-user."

The U.S. population is aging and more people are battling chronic health conditions. In an emergency, it's hard to imagine not having an EMS response.

Goodpaster says, "If we keep going down the route that we're going across the country and across the state, we're gonna see them leave. We're gonna see them choose...some of them are just leaving the industry altogether. They're tired of healthcare, they’re burnt out, and we have to do something about it."

These leaders are looking for a solution in the bluegrass, to a national problem.