‘Everybody’s struggling.’ EMT shortage impacting many New Jersey communities
EMT staffing is at the center of Toms River’s recent political firestorm. However, staffing is an issue affecting many parts of New Jersey.
News 12 New Jersey previously reported about newly-elected Mayor Dan Rodrick’s plan to not fill the two retiring police captains – and use those funds to hire eight new police EMTs
In a letter to the public written last week, Rodrick wrote, “Residents have been waiting up to 30 minutes for an ambulance to arrive. It’s unacceptable! A rapid response is the difference between life and death.”
Toms River Police Chief Mitch Little counters that argument by saying response times are, on average, nine minutes, which is less than the Ocean County average of 14 minutes, according to state data. In his retort to the mayor’s letter, Little wrote, “Unfortunately, even with extensive recruiting efforts, the pool of EMT applicants has been almost nonexistent for some time, as other agencies are also in need of emergency medical personnel.”
But EMT shortages are on the rise statewide. Asbury Park Fire and EMS Chief Kevin Keddy says low salaries, long training hours and high turnover rates lead to shortages, which could lead to longer response times.
“Everybody’s struggling. Even the towns that are hiring people, they’re having issues maintaining staff or retention,” said Keddy. “I think with social economic issues, people don’t have the time for that. There’s just less volunteering today and that creates a problem. So, towns more and more are hiring people to do this work full time.”
Paula Weiler, president of the EMS Council of New Jersey, says some ways to fix the shortages include establishing and expanding training funds to train and retain EMTs; establishing loan policies for EMT training; and establishing tax incentives for volunteer EMTs.