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Nationwide shortage of paramedics affecting local branches

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BATON ROUGE - The past year has been challenging for paramedics and EMTs in a few ways.

They're navigating a pandemic, and grappled with an initial dip in call volume as many people feared contracting the virus.

"Out of all the first responder jobs the EMS job is by far the hardest one," said Mike Chustz with Baton Rouge EMS.

Chustz says those call numbers have skyrocketed back to where they were before the pandemic, and more help is needed to answer them.

"If you have a minor illness or ailment you can go to urgent care or see your doctor. You don't need to call 911. The 911 calls are tying up our ambulances and we got to do something about it," said Chustz.

Paramedics and EMT's are coming on board, but not at the rate that they're needed. It's a problem nationwide.

For Baton Rouge EMS, there are 15 openings for paramedics and 32 for EMT's.
As for Acadian, there are 61 openings for paramedics, and 46 for EMT's.

"The more staff we have the more ambulances we can put out on the street. In the past, when call volume increased we'd add staff and ambulances, but with the paramedic shortage we don't have that option," he said.

Around the country, ambulance services point to a high employee turnover and low pay rates.

It's why Baton Rouge and Acadian EMS are offering incentives for new hires.

"We are actively hiring, doing some recruiting, offering more benefits, and we're also working on employee retention and things like that," said Chustz.

Chustz says Baton Rouge EMS takes pride in having many 20-plus year employees in a field that can be taxing.

"It's physically demanding, especially in EMS, but it's also mentally and emotionally demanding."

While it's difficult to recruit people from outside areas, Acadian and Baton Rouge EMS are actively looking to find employees who are needed.

In another effort to recruit, Acadian is now offering an EMT program.
The flyer with the details is attached.


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