Midstate EMS departments continue to recruit among omicron surge

Coronavirus in Pennsylvania

SUSQUEHANNA TOWNSHIP, Pa. (WHTM) — As we enter year two of the pandemic, staffing and mental health concerns continue for EMS departments. Two local departments say right now, they’re maintaining their staffing levels but says they still have a lot of pressure, especially during the omicron surge.

“There’s more demand for ambulances out there and less staff available and it becomes a non-stop thing, you just can’t catch a break,” Bob Smith, operations Chief at Susquehanna Township EMS said.

Smith says non-covid related calls have gone up significantly. “We’ve had a lot of generally sick people, very sick patients as well as people who just aren’t able to access health care,” Smith said.

At the same time, the department is dealing with an increase in COVID-positive patients. “Three months ago, we might have seen one or two a week, we’re now seeing one or two a day,” Smith said. 

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EMS departments across the Midstate are looking to bring on more employees. Penn State Health Life Lion launched its own in-house training program to recruit. The first class graduated six new EMTs in December. Another class is starting on Jan. 31. 

As departments deal with staffing, they’re also dealing with the strain on their mental health. “A year ago, December 30th, we got our first shots and our first vaccines for our crew members here at Cumberland Goodwill and it was one of those things, ok, we’re taking the next step, we’re moving forward, the end is in sight,” Nathan Harig, assistant chief of Cumberland Goodwill EMS said. 

Harig has a message to the community. “I just really hope that they can see that their nurses, doctors, and local emergency responders, we’re just so burnt out from two years of covid and if they could just take simple steps for us, it would be so much better,” Harig said. 

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