EMT's stretched thin in southern Illinois

EMT's stretched thin in southern Illinois
By: Arnold Wyrick
UNION COUNTY, Ill. - The emergency medical technicians who work at the Union County Ambulance Service have very little down time when they're on duty.  In fact, their emergency calls have gone up over the years, while their staff has not.
"In the mid-80's when I started here in this business we ran three to 400 calls a year.  And now with the inception of 911 and increase in services and some population increases, we're running around 2,300 calls per year with the same number of staff," said Assistant Director Grant Capel.
The ambulance service currently has 10 full-time and eight part-time employees.  They should have at least 12 full-time EMT's.
"In the past we've had shortages.  We've had difficulties in obtaining people through the years," Capel said.
And unlike fire departments and police departments who can call in help from neighboring states when needed, the ambulance service can not.
"States operate differently, every state Kentucky, Missouri and Illinois all have different clinical requirements for their people.  How they're trained, how long they're trained," Capel said.
The hours are long 24-hours on, 48-hours off.  And when they are toned out for an emergency, it can sometimes be the worst imaginable situation.
"There have been bad ones, lots of them.  But, there's lots of rewards too.  And sometimes you have to look inside to get those rewards.  But, it's been the most rewarding thing I've ever done," Capel said.
Capel said one thing that would EMT workers is more education to teach young drivers how to react when emergency vehicles are approaching.