Paramedic shortage in the Heartland

Paramedic shortage in the Heartland
By: Erica Byfield & Heartland News staff

PADUCAH, Ky. - Paramedic problems are growing across the Heartland and some departments don't have enough employees while others are stretched thin.
Those working in the industry say not enough people are signing up to go to paramedic school.
Statewide in Kentucky, there's a little more than 2000 emergency management technicians.
"Of that 2,200 maybe 60 percent of them actively work as paramedics in ambulance services. So, you do the math, you've got 1,200 paramedics for 120 counties. that's roughly 10 paramedics per county," said Mercy Regional Director Jamie Locke in Paducah.
Locke runs five trucks with about 13 paramedics every day.
In a perfect world Locke would like more help.
"We've lost about four or five in the last few months," he said.
On top of that,there is another issue. Since there are a limited number of paramedics, directors have to work hard to keep them on the staff with nearby counties offering more cash.
"With neighboring counties around us doing wage increases and so on and so forth, it's going to force us into the position where we're going to have to do something about employee wages," Locke said.

For example, a starting paramedic in Paducah makes about $30,000 and works loads of calls.  Twenty minutes away in Ballard County, an EMT could bring home about $40,000 with less work.

However, Jamie Locke wants to reassure you that if you need a paramedic, you'll get one.
"If you call an ambulance, they will be at your door. There's not going to be a lapse in services. There's not going to be a delay in service even if we are having to work a few longer hours," he said.
There is going to be ramped up recruitment of high school students.

For the first time starting in 2008 in Paducah, hospitals and ambulance services will hold two paramedic training courses.  It takes 15-18 months to get your license.