EMT shortage leads to dangerous situations

Published: Feb. 6, 2023 at 10:19 PM CST
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PARAGOULD, Ark. (KAIT) - Frustration forms on the front lines as a national shortage of EMTs are being felt in northeast Arkansas. This leaves many hospitals to get creative with staffing.

According to the American Ambulance Association, the EMT turnover rate is 20 to 30 percent annually, meaning there’s a 100 percent turnover every four years.

Huston Bowden is the Director of EMS at Arkansas Methodist Medical Center and said there are three major factors that go into the shortage.

“One the stress, two the job hours, and three the low pay,” Bowden said. “It has just created this perfect storm for EMS in general.”

When they are short staffed Bowden said it creates issues when they are out responding to a call and for the patients in the hospital.

“That creates backlogs, in the 911 system we have calls waiting for a crew to get available and you may have people staying in the hospital longer due to our crews being on emergency calls,” Bowden said.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, being an EMT is one of the worst-paid jobs in health care. On average, they make 30% less than other working Americans.

With the low wages, it makes recruiting talent difficult, and Bowden says it’s difficult to see a solution for this problem.

“I think with our low reimbursement rates through interest companies and the government we don’t have the funds or money to actually go at this problem,” Bowden said.

He said change needs to come at the top and urges elected officials to take note of the problems and come up with the help they need.

“Without more input from legislators, without more input from communities, your elected leaders it’s going to be a difficult thing to challenge it’s going to take some creativity,” Bowden said.