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Frank A. Douglass Insurance Agency

EMT shortage causing some departments to close

Bay Ambulance Director Gary Wadaga knew he was going to be a paramedic from a young age.

I actually watched our local – at the time they didn’t have EMTs – respond to my grandfather who suffered a cardiac arrest, and they were able to revive him. I thought that’d be a neat job.

Over his tenure with the organization he has seen everything. The service has 1,000 calls a year, many being a matter of life and death. Wadaga says he knows how important EMTs are to the health of the community and the potential consequences when there aren’t enough of them.

The Upper Peninsula is beginning to experience that crisis. Wadaga says there are several factors involved, including pay level and pressure. Many EMTs graduate to nursing and other areas of the medical field for a more substantial paycheck. Demographics play a role too. Wadaga describes paramedic work as a young person’s job, due to the amount of lifting and other physical demands it entails.

In some places, staffing shortages have caused organizations to close entirely forcing the likes of Bay Ambulance to expand their territory. Even the bigger departments are beginning to feel the pinch, though.

Fortunately we have not had to turn down calls, we have not had to delay stuff a whole ton. But we’ve lost our ability to do some of the public relations outreach things, because we don’t have people here that can teach a CPR or First Aid class.

Ambulance services are just one sector of the economy continuing to struggle to restaff following the COVID-19 pandemic. The United States Department of Labor estimates there are over 10 million open job positions across the country.

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