WKYT Investigates: Paramedic shortage, concern to local EMS providers

Published: Jul. 31, 2017 at 5:14 PM EDT
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Owen County Emergency Medical Services Administator Dan Brenyo is estimating a 35 percent paramedic shortage across Kentucky.

Brenyo's county is a perfect example of the pain not having a enough paramedics can put on a region.

At midnight, Owen County's hospital will close it's doors for good. "We just don't know where this is going to go. And that's a scary place to be," Brenyo told WKYT's Miranda Combs. He said because the hospital is closing, transport times go from an average of 20 minutes to 40 minutes.

Add the increased transport time to a skeleton crew and Brenyo said they could have a big problem. "I'm not the only one. Ask any of the counties around us. We're all in the same position."

Because of the shortage of paramedics, Brenyo is bringing back the old style of using a chase car. He explained, "So the chase car for us gives us the ability to move a paramedic, that advanced life support provider--which we're short on--to that vehicle so they can remain in the county."

Combs rode along with Paramedic Josh Willoughby in the 'chase car.' "I may have to jump a call and leave one call to go to another call," he said. "I think it's a crisis over the entire region. We're not the only service that's having to resort to the chase car method now."

Brenyo also said they are going into education mode, to remind residents when to call 9-1-1. "The problem is we get calls for stuff, 'I have a splinter.' People view EMS as a taxi service in a lot of places." He said they know they must respond to a call, no matter what, but when they are crunched with a skeleton staff, they want the runs to count. "Educating the community on when to dial 9-1-1 is the primary goal now," he explained.

Dr. Walt Lubbers, medical director for Owen County, said, "Every service in Kentucky is struggling to staff paramedics on ambulances. Every service I've talked to is short anywhere from two to a half a dozen or more medics. As the board of EMS will tell you, there are more paramedics in the state than ever before, but unfortunately that hasn't translated into more medics on the street."