ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — The State Department of Health is releasing some concerning numbers about the shortage of EMS workers.
The study found New York has 9% fewer certified providers than 10 years ago — and the majority of agencies said this does affect ambulance response times.
Low pay was the main reason given for the shortage, as EMS workers making half what firefighters and police officers do here in Rochester.
Local first responders said low pay, as well as a high training time commitment and a misunderstanding about the profession, are all contributing factors to the shortage. Rural areas are struggling the most.
According to the report, 59% of rural volunteer responders reported their ability to respond to calls on time was moderately or severely impaired by volunteer shortages.
Lucas VanDervort from Brockport Ambulance said he was surprised to hear the decrease was only 9%- he expected higher.
“Most EMS agencies operate on medical reimbursements- healthcare insurance reimbursements- so if the call volume’s not there to begin with that decreases their operating budget and that makes it harder to pay people to be here to cover those calls, so that’s where the volunteer factor comes in,” said VanDervort.
So low call volume equals low funding which means a need for volunteers. But volunteers are even harder to come by.
Reg Allen is the chief of CHS Mobile Integrated Healthcare. He said some people just can’t afford it anymore.
“People need to work more than one job at times and the time to volunteer is limited so not only is the training requirement high, the time that’s available to a lot of people has changed substantially,” he said.
Allen said some people get into the field based on what they see on TV. He said they don’t last long when they realize the reality.
“The trauma and stuff that we experience on a regular basis- people don’t stay in this profession for a long time so people who have been in it for a long time are outliers.”
Despite all of this, he said there’s a lot of satisfaction in the job.
“Typically you’re seeing them on their worst day and you can be that person who’s the shining light saying, ‘it’s okay, we’re gonna take care of you, it’s gonna be better.'”
The report also compares the salaries of EMS workers in different areas of the state. Rochester ranks third highest with salaries at just over $35,000. Only Albany and Binghamton rank higher.