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Middle Tennessee counties feel pressure from paramedic shortage

Ambulance
Posted at 5:39 PM, Nov 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-05 19:58:45-04

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Ambulance response times have gone up in some Middle Tennessee counties as workers are stretched thin.

In Montgomery County, even supervisors are jumping on the rigs to help. They estimate response times have gone from 7 to 8 minutes there.

While there's a shortage of paramedics across the country, lives are at risk if this persists. "EMS is a very stressful job, but we’ve had to close two stations, the supervisors are doing an excellent job of managing that, they’re moving assets around," said Bill Webb, chief of Montgomery County EMS.

Webb went to officials in Montgomery County to ask for a 22% pay raise for his workers. Next, they vote on it Monday at 6 p.m.

"We’re hoping that going to 12-hour shifts, along with this pay raise to attract folks, and keep the ones we have because EMS — it’s a tough profession," Webb said.

He said it's hard to compete with places like Tennova Health. They're paying medics $80 an hour.

"We can keep doing pay raises, but you’re going to have to draw a line in the end, and we’re going to price out of a profession," Webb said.

In Montgomery County, they’re trying to hire around 30 additional EMTs and paramedics. In Wilson County, they’re trying to hire around 20. Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto said they've lost people to hospitals too. "We are definitely doing the pay study," Hutto said. "He’s only shut two stations down a couple of times."

Webb said something needs to change. "You can get your nursing degree online, you can sit at home and do it online, respiratory therapy, the same way, but to be an EMT or paramedic, you still have to be in a classroom," he said.

That's why he helped launch a new basic training program through Austin Peay State University. "It kind of goes back to grow your own, and that’s what we’re trying to do," Webb said. You can apply for the jobs by clicking here.

He said Nashville Fire pays more than nearby counties. A spokesperson for the department said in an email that they're bringing on 30 additional emergency workers who start in December.