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Ambulance companies struggling to find paramedics in Mississippi

Right now, there’s not an ambulance company in the state that is fully staffed.
Published: Feb. 9, 2022 at 6:29 PM CST
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BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - The state is in dire need of paramedics as staffing shortages have hit a critical low during the pandemic. Right now, there’s not an ambulance company in the state that is fully staffed.

According to Mississippi Ambulance Alliance president, Julia Clarke, it’s a national problem, and on the Gulf Coast, paramedics are hard to come by.

“We had a workforce shortage before the pandemic, and since the pandemic, it’s gotten even worse,” said Clarke.

Retaining workers has been a challenge as many have traded EMS work for jobs inside hospitals. The root of the mass exodus is linked to money.

“We’re paid below our cost of doing business and so our wages have not kept up with other healthcare industries,” Clarke added.

Clarke said the key is for workers to get paid as healthcare providers instead of transporters. That difference is causing a substantial wage gap.

“You may go into industrial medicine and you’re going to make $30-$35 an hour,” Clarke said. “Whereas if you work for EMS, it can be anywhere from $14-$22 an hour.”

Industry leaders are now pushing for workforce development and increasing reimbursements.

“A lot of people don’t realize that if an ambulance shows up at your house and we provide treatment to you, first-aid or insulin, but you don’t transport, you don’t go to a hospital, we don’t get reimbursed,” Clarke explained.

Clark said retention money would also go a long, and if the problem isn’t resolved soon, it will cause some areas to be left in the dark.

“The reality right now in Mississippi is that any county at any time could lose their EMS service,” she said. “We are that short with paramedics. Right now, there’s not an ambulance company in the state that is fully staffed.”

Clark traveled to Jackson Wednesday morning to talk to lawmakers about the importance of workforce development and using American Rescue Plan funds to go towards training and schooling paramedics who want to stay in EMS.

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