East Baton Rouge EMS has shortage in workers; unnecessary 911 calls partially to blame

EMS shortages likely caused by unnecessary calls

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - There’s a nationwide shortage of ambulance services, and East Baton Rouge EMS says it’s facing one as well.

There are about 200 paramedics on the East Baton Rouge EMS staff, but the organization says it has plenty of positions that need to be filled.

Paramedic, Brad Harris, has been with East Baton Rouge EMS for 20 years. He says he got his interest in EMS by watching TV shows starring first responders.

“I liked watching shows," Harris said. “Rescue, 911 types of things.”

After high school, Harris went through the necessary training and certification to become a paramedic. It’s something he says not enough people in Baton Rouge are doing. He says the shortage is partially due to unnecessary 911 calls for things that probably don’t require EMS service.

“It’s supply and demand. If the 911 system is abused or overused, that’s more calls that our medics have to run, that tie up more resources,” Harris said. “It’s the ones that we go on where it’s, ‘I’ve had a runny nose for four days,’ or ‘I’m out of my blood pressure medicine and I need it refilled.’ Those things tie up our resources,” said Harris.

Harris says they’ll always send an ambulance when someone calls for one though. He enjoys his job and says there’re programs at local high schools that teach about first responder services, but often, people move on from those programs and into other areas.

“Probably the biggest misconception about this job is that we're just ambulance drivers, that we are strictly just called to bring people to the hospital,” he said.

While he says it’s a stressful job, its one that he and his colleagues find fulfilling.

“I’ve delivered babies, I’ve helped people that were on the brink of death and brought them back,” Harris said. “You know, you have a lot of people who are grateful for our service and it makes you feel good too, knowing that you’ve helped that person out.”

East Baton Rouge EMS recommends that people interested in ambulance and paramedic services visit the National EMS Academy in Baton Rouge.

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