ASHEBORO N.C. – The arrival of Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) ambulances and paramedics is helping to ease the strain Randolph County EMS is feeling from high call volumes and staffing problems.
Three ambulances with a total of 6 crew of EMTs and paramedics arrived in Randolph County late last week on February 3rd. “We applied a month or so ago when we found out there was another allocation being sent to the state.” Said Jared Byrd, Deputy Director at Randolph County Emergency Services in an email.
Currently those crews have responded to 65 emergency calls since their arrival. “They are only running 911 calls. They each have a paramedic and EMT. We try our best to add an EMT to their ambulance with local knowledge of hospitals to make it more efficient” said Byrd.
Randolph County EMS surpassed it’s record number of calls by more than 2,000 calls in 2021. Combined with the statewide paramedic shortage resulting from the cancellation of in person classes and clinicals due to COVID-19, EMS agencies are struggling to replace both paramedics who are retiring and/or leaving the field as well as those who are leaving to go to other agencies offering better pay and sign on bonuses.
Randolph County EMS requires 10 paramedic’s per shift and a total of 40 paramedics and EMTs to staff all ambulances each week across 4 shifts. “Out of those 40, we have 5 full time vacancies we have been constantly trying to fill” said Byrd. “Then we currently have 3 employees out on medical leave or working light duty because of injuries. So even if no one takes off or calls in sick, we are trying to fill 40 shifts with 32 people every week.”
The state assigned the FEMA crews to Randolph County for two weeks, after which Byrd says the crews could either be moved to another county or stay in Randolph. “They may get sent somewhere else or they may stay with us. We won’t know until next week.” The county plans to request an extension to try and keep the ambulances in Randolph County.