Monroe Ambulance CIO: EMT shortage comes down to ‘reimbursement issue’ on state level

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) —There’s a shortage of EMT’s statewide and people at Monroe Ambulance say it has to do with reimbursement at the state level. During the pandemic, reimbursement to trainers has been cut and local agencies fear even more cuts.

Chris Dewey is the chief information officer at Monroe. He said the entire system is designed around availability. Without enough EMT’s to respond to calls, response times can suffer.

Dewey said there’s been a 10% drop in credentialed EMT’s over the past year. He said ideally they’d have double the number of ambulances out on the roads than they do currently.

“When we as an organization are at a very critical level in respect to call volume, all our rigs are occupied, based on priority of the call we may push back to the emergency communications department 911 and request another agency cover the call in the interest of the patient,” Dewey said.

He said Monroe services 99% of calls and it’s rare they send one back to the 911 center, but it may not always look that way.

“We may have an ambulance on a street corner waiting for a job and a call comes in for a town agency or AMR in the city we may not be able to respond to that call because our resources are dedicated for a certain area.”

Dewey said Monroe recently gave a wage increase across the board in an effort to recruit more EMT’s, but recruitment isn’t a new problem.

“The shortage of EMT’s at the state was answered by reimbursing the trainers that sponsored the class, in full. Recently and during COVID that was reduced to I believe 75% reimbursement as opposed to 100 and there’s talk of it being reduced even more,” said Dewey. “They’re grossly underpaid for what they’re responsible for but having to pay for that training versus getting a job at a retail store and getting paid almost the same money it’s tough to recruit the talent.”

For someone who has waited for an ambulance or seen their call passed off to another agency— Dewey said it all comes down to this reimbursement issue preventing agencies from paying better across the board.

“Once we recruit more talent and get more resources on the road response times can drop it’s really that simple. It’s a dollars and cents proposition.”

Dewey said Monroe can train EMT’s from the ground up academy-style. He said the wage increase has helped but he feels they’re still short around 10 EMT’s.

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