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EMT shortage causing concern

No Hillsboro attendants available for two weekend emergencies

Managing editor

They are a dedicated bunch — those men and women who have stepped up to serve their neighbors and strangers as emergency medical personnel.

But a shortage of the hardworking volunteers is causing concern.

Marion County EMS Director Steve Smith said Tuesday that continued shortages of EMT volunteers are prompting him to rethink his department’s budget for next year. He plans to submit a couple of proposals in the coming weeks to the county commission regarding ways to have personnel available for calls.

Smith met with Hillsboro emergency workers Monday evening to discuss concerns.

At one time, Hillsboro had 20 to 30 volunteers. The call list now is down to 19, Smith said, and of that list only nine take the majority of calls.

He explained that there are 1,440 hours of call time that could possibly be worked in a month. In Hillsboro, there are nine people who average more than 100 hours per month.

And Hillsboro isn’t the only area where the numbers are down.

Marion has six people who take the majority of call time. Florence and Peabody have around four each.

The shortage was evident this weekend when a call came in at about 10 p.m. Saturday for a Hillsboro ambulance to respond to someone who was ill. Unfortunately, two people did not respond to take the call so Marion personnel were summoned. A Hillsboro EMT did assist the Marion ambulance.

A similar incident occurred early Sunday morning when there weren’t any Hillsboro EMTs available to take a call in Durham and a crew from Tampa responded.

Smith said one member of the Hillsboro crew moved to Goessel and two are on medical leave.

Those who want to work and can’t right now for medical reasons feel guilty, Smith said.

“But it’s not their fault,” he said. “They’re doing the best they can.”

The most recent EMT class has one student who has taken the final exams and is certified to serve. There are six others still in the process. Another EMT class will begin in September that will run until May.

Times have changed, Smith said.

“These are volunteers. It’s not like it used to be,” he said, referring to some people working more than one job or having to change jobs, limiting their ability to serve.

“This is a problem that’s not going to go away and will probably get worse as time goes on,” Smith said.

Last modified July 14, 2011

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