American Ambulance Association president Shawn Baird warned that the coronavirus pandemic took the shortage of emergency medical services (EMS) workers to a “crisis level,” explaining that the problem threatens to undermine the country’s 911 system and needs urgent attention by Congress.
“The problem has existed for several years due to chronic underfunding by Congress for ambulance service. But, certainly during the pandemic it has reached a “crisis level.” Baird explained to “Fox & Friends Weekend ” that Congress must immediately address this issue. We’ve experienced a lot of staff attrition, and schools had closed down paramedic training institutes and stopped graduating students in the past year. So we are suddenly facing a serious shortfall. “
The American Ambulance Association wrote to the Senate and House leaders stating that “the nation’s EMS system faces a crippling workforce shortage.” They also explained that this was a “long-term problem which has been growing for over a decade.”
“It threatens our emergency 9-1-1 system and needs to be addressed immediately by Congress,” continued the letter.
Baird stated that the association had some ideas “to present to Congress”, and hopes lawmakers will “take some action.” “
According to the AAA/Avesta 2019 Ambulance Industry Employee Turnover Study, turnover for EMTs and paramedics was in the 20 to 30% range for EMTs and paramedics, which Baird pointed out on Sunday has only accelerated since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
He told host Pete Hegseth that other factors, like those that boosted unemployment benefits during the pandemic and other career options that are more lucrative, have contributed to the turnover.
“This job is very stressful and many people don’t know what they are getting themselves into,” Baird stated. He also said that the “incredible workload” of those in the job was due to the pandemic and vacancies, wildfires, and other natural disasters. Many paramedics, and other workers in the field are simply saying that they have reached their limits because they work a lot more overtime than others. They’re also leaving to take up other opportunities. Baird explained this to Hegseth.
“Half the people who quit don’t go to another job, but they simply leave the field.” he said. We have to stop this trend. It is essential that we stop employees from bleeding.
Baird discussed the possibility of three solutions. These included paying a bonus to recognize “those who are staying with the field.” We are asking Congress to make an American hero payment, and to take action to fund the states so that we can recognize those who have fought the good fight and done a tremendous job.
He pointed to Florida as an example.
In May, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced a $1,000 one-time bonus for about 174,000 first responders, including paramedics and EMTs across the state to recognize their hard work during the pandemic. Baird stated that work force development and training programs were needed, and suggested that veterans could be a good candidate to join those programs.
“These folks take care of people who’ve had terrible injuries on the battlefield,” Baird said. They are needed to help them find work when they return home.
Fox News’ Breck Dumas contributed to this report.