Local EMS leader calls on lawmakers to fix dangerous emergency worker shortage

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HARRISBURG, Pa. – A local EMS leader says there’s a crisis in the commonwealth. They’re seeing a shortage of paramedics, which could have dangerous consequences.

Cumberland Goodwill EMS Assistant Chief Nathan Harig said they’ve pulled out all the stops to try and hire a paramedic for their open position.

That includes offering a $20,000 signing bonus and $25 per hour pay. Yet, they haven’t gotten a single applicant.

“We’re doing everything we can to try to motivate people to come on in but it’s just not working,” Harig said.

It’s a situation he says is part of a much larger problem.

“It’s everywhere throughout the midstate. It’s not just our agency. We’re just asking the legislature and the governor to hear our cries and help us, because we feel ignored right now,” Harig said.

Ignored, because the shortage started years ago. First responders told lawmakers about it in a 2017 report that included recommendations on solving the issue.

Now the pandemic is making the shortage even more apparent, and more dangerous.

“When it came to a pandemic situation like we’ve had right now in the Commonwealth, when we need EMTs and paramedics, they’re just not here,” Harig said. “This was a problem that could have been avoided if they took action back when this report was fresh.”

He says there are solutions.

“Support providers going out and getting more education, which means more funding from the government. It means passing bills that allow us to get reimbursed for services instead of allowing an insurance company get to decide where the money goes. It means being able to recognize that your EMS workers in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania are saving you during COVID-19 so you really need to make sure you’re funding them with hazard pay,” Harig said.

He also believes it needs to happen now.

“If we could start to see those actions take place at both the legislative and executive branches, you might be able to stave off a worse crisis,” Harig said. “But we’re already in a crisis right now and unfortunately there’s communities that will suffer as a result.”

There are ways you can help. Harig says the best way to do that is by urging your lawmakers to do something about this issue.

Also if you have any interest in being a first responder you should get in touch with your local ems or fire department to apply there and help them fill those empty positions.

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