Emergency Medical Services workers urge lawmakers to act

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(ABC 6 News) – At the Minnesota State Capitol Thursday, paramedics, EMS, and EMT first responders from around the state met lawmakers with an urgent plea for help, saying they are getting more calls for service, with sicker patients, but they are losing staff faster than they can replace them.

“Any industry that cannot retain it’s youngest workers, is not set up for a sustainable future,” said Dylan Ferguson, the executive director of the Minnesota EMS Regulatory Board.

Since 2018, 65% of EMTs who let their credential expire were under 40 years old, according to the board.

A troubling statistic because as EMTs retire, there won’t be enough young workers to replace them.

The board says the biggest contributing factor is low pay.

Rural EMS, like Dodge Center Ambulance Services, rely on volunteer positions because of poor funding.

“We’re just barely getting by,” said Angie Jarrett, ambulance director at Dodge Center Ambulance Services.

She says one of their biggest problems is that government insurance like Medicare or Medicaid reimburse ambulances less than private insurers.

“They don’t see ambulance as healthcare. They deem us as transportation. We’re often only reimbursed at less than 40% of what that actual ambulance bill is.”

According to Jarrett, policy like that, means the paid positions are few and far between. Jarett says at Dodge Center, volunteer positions only pay $3 an hour.

Other legislative priorities include more reimbursement for licensing fees, and high school EMT programs to get more people interested in being first responders. A full list of priorities can be found here.