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Vermont EMS officials outline workforce, finance challenges: ‘It’s not a good picture’ – Local 22/44 News

MONTPELIER – Vermont’s EMS workforce had already been facing challenges prior to the pandemic, and two years of added stress has only worsened the money and staffing woes.

EMS leaders met with Vermont lawmakers to detail those concerns, which mirror what departments across the country have experienced.

In 2020, nearly one third of the workforce in ambulance services left after just one year, and eleven percent left after three months. Trying to keep up with recruiting, retention, and responding to calls, is only half the battle.

“COVID has been terrible on the EMS workforce, it’s increased our costs significantly,” said Jim Finger, President of the Vermont Ambulance Association. “It’s not a good picture, and I want you to know we appreciate the help but its going to take a large effort.”

Finger said the cost of equipment, fuel and training all play into that struggle, but a lack of volunteers has had the largest ripple effect.

“That’s putting a strain on the whole workforce because there used to be a lot of volunteers that volunteered their time and had other jobs, now you have a workforce where a lot of voluntary agencies are hiring paid personnel,” Finger said.

For EMS departments, efficiency is always important. With fewer workers, it’s a necessity. Will Moran, EMS chief for the Vermont Department of Health, said that’s been hard to maintain.

“One of the things we saw during COVID was that we had an EMS system that was under a tremendous level of stress, and not every organization was able to operate at the level of efficiency or capacity that they otherwise would’ve been able to pre-pandemic,” Moran said.

Earlier this legislative session, a proposal came forward to transition Vermont to regional emergency communications centers. EMS agencies have voiced concern that they’d be absorbing the cost, but Moran is at least open to the concept.

“Regional dispatch should be the future of dispatch in our state,” Moran said. “I do believe there’s an opportunity for that, we know there’s significant funding on the table.”

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