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EMT Shortages Plague the U.S., With Nearly One-Third Quitting in 2021

December 23, 2022 | By KaliGirl

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to staffing shortages across various sectors, but for emergency medical technicians (EMTs), the consequences of such shortages can be especially dire. Despite the critical nature of their work, many EMTs have been forced to leave their jobs due to low wages. Deniece Farnsworth, an EMT with seven years of experience, recently told CBS News that she is uncertain whether she can continue working in the field due to the low pay of $18 per hour.

Despite working as much as she can, Farnsworth, an EMT, struggles to make ends meet. In fact, her hourly wage of slightly above the national median of $17.05 for EMTs, equating to an annual salary of $35,470, still places her among the lowest paid in the healthcare industry. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, low pay is the primary reason for the high rate of EMT turnover, with approximately one-third quitting in 2021.

The shortage of qualified candidates has made it difficult for the industry to fill the vacant positions, with a 2022 study by the American Ambulance Association finding that 39% of part-time EMT and 55% of part-time paramedic positions went unfilled. “The situation is dire,” warns Shawn Baird, President of the American Ambulance Association. “We are facing a continual loss of paramedics, with many leaving the field altogether.

The ongoing struggle for fair wages in the ambulance industry has come to a head in Los Angeles County, where the nation’s largest private ambulance provider, AMR, has announced it will no longer offer non-emergency transport services due to low Medicaid reimbursements contributing to a $3.5 million budget deficit.

Brian Napoli, director of operations at Amwest Ambulance, explained that the company is trying to give employees a raise in an effort to retain EMTs like Farnsworth. However, Napoli admitted that this may not be a sustainable solution, as Medicaid reimbursements for non-emergency transports, such as patient transfer between hospitals or dialysis appointments, remain insufficient.

Napoli revealed that it costs Amwest more than $250 for an average non-emergency transport call, but the company only receives $107 in Medicaid reimbursement. This situation is particularly concerning as California has recently implemented a law requiring a minimum wage of $22 per hour for fast food workers, yet there is no mandated pay for EMTs. As AMR CEO, Baird, pointed out, low Medicaid reimbursement can even impact the availability of ambulances in certain areas. It is clear that the ambulance industry, like many other essential services, must prioritize fair compensation for its workers in order to provide quality care to the communities they serve.

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