By Allison G. S. Knox
When a disaster happens, there is often an administrative breakdown somewhere along the road. As a result, the community problems that the disaster creates can become much, much worse due to administrative issues.
One example is Hurricane Katrina. When Hurricane Katrina happened in August 2005, it was not handled well. There was terrible miscommunication between different levels of government agencies, and the confusion exacerbated an already dire situation in New Orleans.
As COVID-19 continues to rage on, it has also worsened the numerous workplace shortages in Emergency Medical Services (EMS). Unfortunately, the problem of insufficient EMS workers is increasing as the pandemic continues.
Nationwide EMS Recruitment and Retention Problems
EMS has had numerous problems with recruitment and retention for decades, and it appears that most communities are not immune to this problem. It has been difficult to get people interested in working on ambulance crews because of the low pay, the strange hours (such as sometimes working in the middle of the night), and the need for EMS workers to have multiple jobs to make ends meet. But those who work in EMS despite these conditions often love their jobs as they’re happy to serve the public.
Recruitment and retention of EMS workers has been a particular problem in rural communities. Resolving this problem is vital because many rural communities lack ambulances as well as the people to staff them. For a patient needing immediate medical care, a trip to a nearby hospital can take up to an hour, which can put the patient’s life at risk.
Lawmakers Need to Understand the Critical Nature of Resolving EMS Recruitment and Retention
It is imperative that lawmakers understand the critical nature of resolving the recruitment and retention issues with 911 emergency services. An EMS system that doesn’t have a problem with recruitment or retention would certainly go a long way in ensuring community resilience during and after a disaster.
Ideally, lawmakers need to help ambulance agencies determine how to correct this imbalance before the next big disaster hits. For instance, local elected officials could work with their ambulance agencies and other members of the community to drive EMS recruitment programs for 911 services. But workable solutions need to be developed very soon to protect the public and the communities they live in.