LANSING, Mich. — Michigan is experiencing a statewide shortage of EMTs and paramedics and it is impacting how local ambulance providers operate.
One of the main reasons for the shortage is access to education, according to Angela Madden, who heads up the Michigan Association of Ambulance Services.
She says her organization is working with lawmakers to make a career in emergency services more attractive and attainable.
“We’re asking for $5 million dollars in one-time funding out of any pocket of money that our state might have," she said. "American Recovery Plan Act dollars, as an example to really infiltrate that education program, either in the form or direct grants to people looking to become EMTs or to schools looking to educate them.”
The EMT program at Lansing Community College costs $5,000 and can be done in as little as eight weeks. But for EMTs who want to become paramedics , the bar is higher. LCC's program takes a year of attending school full time, which can be difficult to do for someone working long hours, and it costs more than $16,000 for in-district students. Other programs can cost more
“So you have to think about working in this field, 12-hour shifts, 24-hour shifts, maybe 18s and 36s, then having to go to school for 18 to 24 months to become a paramedic,” Madden said.
At the Lansing Fire Department, they are now looking for ways to get more paramedics on the team including targeted candidate searches and opening up the application for extended periods of time.
“We are having difficulty finding paramedic candidates. We just hired 19 EMTs which makes our numbers about half and half,” said Ralph Ortiz of the Lansing Fire Department.
Right now, the department needs about 20 more paramedics.
“Ideally, we would have 60 paramedics and 30 EMTs approximately. We’re looking at around 40 and 40 right now,” said Ortiz.
Ortiz says the department runs about five ambulances per shift and requires the paramedics and EMTs they do have to carry more responsibilities to make up for the shortage.
Dennis Palmer is the president and CEO of Mercy Ambulance. He says he’s seeing the impact of the shortage too.
“Let’s say that you normally run seven vehicles on per day. We’re down to four per day. That can be troubling regarding response times. The level of service sometimes has to be downgraded from advanced life support,” said Palmer.
While the Lansing Fire Department says they are having a hard time filling paramedic positions, they do stress that the shortage is not impacting response times.
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