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Local ambulance districts face staffing shortages

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LEWIS COUNTY, Mo. (WGEM) -- Across the Tri-States, local ambulance districts said keeping first responders and attracting new recruits has been a constant problem.

Lewis County Ambulance District said they have EMTs and paramedics from as far away as St. Louis and Columbia to help out with shifts because they're so short staffed.

Administrators said the workers they currently have are stretched thin.

"We're able to keep a truck at each end of the county, but I have people who are working 100 plus hours per week. Then you get into them being tired and that can be a danger, when they're in the truck or driving the ambulance falling asleep and trying to be the best they can be to help that patient," said Aaron Stutheit, Lewis Co Ambulance District administrator.

Another big struggle has been finding people who are willing to do the two year training to become an EMT or paramedic.

Officials said pay has been an issue as well.

In nearby Marion County, directors there said they raised the wage of EMTs and paramedics by two dollars when they pandemic began, which was reimbursed with CARES act money.

The district has decided to make budget adjustments in 2021 to keep that increase.

Lewis County officials said pay is a common problem they see when looking for employees.

"Pay is a big problem for a district this little, is bringing people in for the pay. Most of the people who come in here to work, this is their second job. We have paramedics that fly with air evac or with survival flight just as a second income for them to work up here," Stutheit said.

Lewis County said it doesn't have a big enough budget to create a permanent pay increase.

Stutheit said if you're interested in becoming an EMT or paramedic, it's best to reach out to your local Ambulance District for more information on when training is available.

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Isabella Rossi

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