The American Ambulance Association (AAA) has warned that it is currently dealing with a “crippling workforce shortage” that threatens to undermine the ability of emergency medical services (EMS) to respond to emergencies.
The AAA is the leading trade association that represents employees in the ambulance service industry.
According to the AAA/Avesta 2019 Ambulance Industry Employee Turnover Study, emergency medical technicians (EMT) and paramedics have a 20 to 30 percent annual turnover rate. This effectively equates to a 100 percent turnover rate over four years. The AAA pointed out that this is incredibly unsustainable. The 2019 study involved 258 EMS organisations across the country.
The AAA conducted a further study in 2020. It found that nearly a third of all workers in EMS left their jobs after less than a year. Around 11 percent of workers left within the first three months on the job.
The survey noted: “The voluntary turnover rates should remain an area of concern. Since EMTs and paramedics are on the front lines, delivering healthcare services to clients and patients, the high rate of voluntary turnover for these jobs is a critical issue, as is the high rate of overall turnover. This is especially true of part-time EMTs and paramedics.”
AAA Vice President of Rural Services and President-elect Shawn Baird said: “I have not heard of any state that feels like they’re not in a bit of a crisis mode for first responders, paramedics in particular.”
In an interview, Baird said that the EMS industry already suffered from a difficult staffing problem due to a lack of funding. Ongoing pressures brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic made the situation even worse.
“This is a problem that’s 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,” said Baird.
“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.”
The Covid-19 vaccine mandates have made the situation worse for the EMS industry, with many unvaccinated EMTs being forced to choose between unemployment and taking the experimental and deadly vaccines.
In New York City, hundreds of city workers, including ambulance workers, remain unvaccinated and will likely be fired within the next few days.
The New York City Fire Department (FDNY) warned that the city could see potentially 20 percent fewer ambulances on the road by November 1st.
“The Department must manage the unfortunate fact that a portion of our workforce has refused to comply with a vaccine mandate for all city employees,” said FDNY Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro. “We will use all means at our disposal, including mandatory overtime, mutual aid from other EMS providers and significant changes to the schedules of our members.”
The latest data from the FDNY indicates that around 32 percent of the department’s employees, including firefighters, EMS, and civilians, remain unvaccinated. This represents around 5,000 individual workers. Such an attrition rate due to a vaccine mandate would cripple the city’s ability to respond to fire and health-related emergencies.
Other states in the US are feeling the pressure of staffing shortages, such as in Maine, where shortages have already made working as an emergency responder stressful due to the miles each ambulance has to cover. The labour shortage is so dire that it has become common in recent years for EMTs to work for multiple departments.
Town managers in rural Maine warned that the state’s decision to mandate the Covid vaccines for healthcare workers threatened the ability of some EMS departments to function.
In Waldoboro, a small rural town on Maine’s coast, Town Manager Julie Keizer is stressed because her town’s small ambulance service has already lost one EMS worker to the vaccine mandate. She may lose two more workers.
“We’re a 24-hour service,” said Keizer. “If I lose three people who were putting in 40 hours or over, that’s 120 hours I can’t cover… We already have a stressed system.”
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