Local EMS struggles with staff shortages
BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - When COVID made its way in, the number of emergency calls increased almost overnight. And the responders we spoke with say their crews can use all the help they can get.
“We’ve been actively trying to recruit new applicants. We need paramedics, we need EMTs to fill these new roles,” Brad Harris with East Baton Rouge EMS told reporters.
Harris says the increase in demand for emergency response personnel has put a lot of weight on his crew’s shoulders.
“I think between July and August we had an 800% increase in COVID calls,” Harris explained.
And with not enough staff to respond to the number of calls they’ve had to use money from FEMA to bring in out-of-state employees to fill the gaps. Harris has been working with EMS for 22 years. He shares with us what it is about the job that keeps him around.
“It’s one of those types of jobs that you never know what to expect, every day is different. You get to work, and you might be at a car accident and delivering a baby the next or going to a house fire. It’s just a lot of excitement, a lot of adrenaline,” said Harris. “It changes throughout the day so during the daytime hours. The call we just ran was at a doctor’s office so whenever doctors’ offices are open, we go to them a lot, school is in session, so we go to a lot of schools. But then in the evening, you get a lot of alcohol-related calls or car accidents, things like that,” Harris continued.
His division just purchased 16 new ambulances and is actively looking to hire about 30 new recruits to fill in those positions.
“I came from working in a daycare and it’s a lot different. This job, the people in it, and the community you serve...you can’t really ask for much more,” said 21-year-old Evan Comeaux, one of the units’ newest recruits.
For Evan, it’s the camaraderie that keeps him engaged and eager to learn more. And he urges anyone considering the job not to hesitate.
“I highly suggest it, it’s a great field. There’s always going to be jobs, there’s always a demand for it. You will always have a job if you’re going into EMS and this is the place to be,” Comeaux explained.
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