Searsport Solves EMT Staff Shortages
SEARSPORT – Cities and towns across the state are struggling to hire and maintain sufficient numbers of emergency first responders.
According to Searsport Town Manager James Gillway, EMS staff shortages are at a critical level across the industry. Most recently, the city’s board of directors approved a $ 1,000 registration bonus to attract paramedics and ambulance drivers.
âAnyone who has an ambulance has a hard time,â he said.
As the city seeks to expand its workforce of firefighters and paramedics, support services have stepped up to take over. âWe have a good caring system that helps us get through this,â said Gillway.
As ambulance coverage is declining, he said, “we are still pulling teams together” to intervene and sometimes rely on mutual aid.
In an August interview with Searsport Ambulance Director Adrian Stone, who has since resigned, he said his emergency response department was “at the edge of the cliff” in terms of personnel, due to loss of medical technicians.
Stone said a few of the crew left for college and others moved. Some also left after the state’s vaccination mandate came into effect in October. Stone left the department in November after 13 and a half years with the ambulance service.
He had proposed in August to reduce his own salary to increase the salaries of EMTs, a quick way to stay within the city’s budget and to attract young people to the service.
Three months later, the city’s pay discussion is still ongoing. Gillway said the salary reviews will be discussed at next week’s board meeting. âAll salaries in the city of Searsport need to be reviewed,â he added.
The city will no longer seek an ambulance director, Gillway said, opting instead for a public safety director, who will oversee the ambulance service. Police Chief Todd Boisvert has been appointed to fill the position for a six-month term as a pilot.
Belfast recently announced an increase in wages and salaries for firefighters and ambulances, with the aim of attracting and retaining staff. The starting salary for firefighters and paramedics with dual firefighter training and EMS certification is now at least $ 24 per hour.
Belfast City Manager Erin Herbig said: âIt is difficult to quantify the value of each of our first responders to our community. When our department is understaffed it means longer response times and what could be the difference between life and death for one of us or for anyone we love. “
Currently, the city’s first responders are required to work consecutive shifts and work extended hours to compensate for staff shortages and ensure citizens are able to receive the help they need.
âWe are confident this investment will keep our current roster and expand our service,â said Belfast Fire Chief Patrick Richards.
When asked how many paramedics had left Searsport’s ambulance service, Gillway replied that he had no answer. “There were a few that left before Adrian left, and after he left, a few others left as well.”
Training is also a retention issue, said Gillway, with a high level of engagement required. It is similar to police and fire service personnel with continuing education occurring annually. The rewards of a job like this are great, he said, but maintaining certification is not easy.
âGod bless them,â he said. “We need them.”
LifeFlight called after the driver got out of the car