CSRA feeling effects of nationwide paramedic shortage

By: Hope Jensen Email
By: Hope Jensen Email

News 12 at 11 o'clock/ Tuesday, November 19th, 2013

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- Paramedics are there to save your life in an emergency, but are there enough of them?

A nationwide paramedic shortage is hitting our area and without enough nearby schools to train them, the problem will only get worse.

"It's a desperate need in this area. When we do lose a medic it does hurt," said Gold Cross EMS CEO Vince Brogdon.

Brogdon says medics average about 5 years in EMS before moving on.

"When they can do to the same amount of school and they can make more money in a controlled environment like a hospital, some choose to do that," he explained.

Thomas Edwards has been a paramedic for four years.

"In a medical emergency seconds count. There is no second chance in a lot of these things," said Edwards. "The closer we are, the more of us that there are, the faster we can respond and the quicker we can help save somebody's life."

A recent change now requires paramedics to have a degree, meaning paramedic schools need to go through a new accreditation process.

"It took time, money, extra resources that the schools didn't have so in return that shut down the majority of the paramedic programs in Georgia," explained Major Michael Willis, Director of Clinical Services for Gold Cross EMS.

Those shut down include the program at Augusta Tech, leaving the closest schools in Aiken, Athens and Savannah. But they say each of those schools is limited by the number of seats each semester and only about half of those who enter the programs, will graduate.

"We've had a huge decrease in paramedics exiting out of a paramedic program," said Willis.

Now companies like Gold Cross are left recruiting out of city and out of state.

"It's a growing pain over time it will work itself out. It will be better for the profession, but in the short term it's actually hurting," explained Willis.

Georgia Regents University is going through the accreditation process for a paramedic school. They are hoping to have it up and running by the 1st quarter of next year.

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