SACRAMENTO (CBS13) - A shortage of paramedics and EMTs has led to major issues for ambulance companies.
It's the piercing sound of help arriving: the siren of an ambulance.
But amid the pandemic, for companies like American Medical Response, better known as AMR, it's been an issue getting that help hired on.
"It's a national issue in terms of the shortage of both paramedics and EMTs," said AMR's Jason Sorrick.
Sorrick said it's an issue across the entire emergency medical services industry. The pandemic impacted the industry and AMR like it did for most places; shutting things down.
"You had a group of students that were going through or getting ready to go to through paramedic school or EMT school and then schools shut down," Sorrick said.
No new students meant no new hires, leading to the staffing shortage.
"Not only in Sacramento but in Stanislaus," Sorrick said.
That shortage has meant current existing crews are working overtime and dealing with the hurdles that the pandemic is throwing at them.
"There are times we're taking longer to get the calls. Not only has COVID impacted our staffing...our own employees [are] getting COVID," Sorrick said. "They have family members getting COVID so they're in quarantine and they can't come work for us."
Also, the safety protocols in place have led to even more time focused on sanitization.
"It's just the slowness of when you're dealing with COVID in terms of your ability to move quicker. You have don PPE essentially on every call," Sorrick said. "You have to wash down and wipe down the vehicle more than you have done in the past."
As the pandemic restriction are easing, the training schools for these first responders are coming back online.
Sorrick told CBS13 that there are eight current employees that will be put through paramedic school by AMR. The hope is to have the open positions for EMTs in Stanislaus County filled by June as more schools are churning out new graduates.
For the Sacramento area, Sorrick hopes that staffing shortages there could be improved closer towards the end of the year. Paramedics take two years to educate and train versus an EMT that can potentially be educated and trained in six months' time.
A sigh of relief for the company and those who may need them.
"It's very encouraging. I like to see that the public function is able to take back its stride," Laszlo Pfiefer said.
"We need more of those people in our lives anyway. So, it's kind of comforting that things are getting back to normal," Jacqui Kriz said.
This is giving AMR and others a small light at the end of the tunnel for the staffing shortage.
"We can see a decompression in the staffing issue and get some relief for our workforce and also ensure we can start meeting these response times like we've done in the past," Sorrick said.
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