WUTR-TV — Both paid and volunteer ambulances are facing an EMT shortage. This is a statewide issue, but local ambulances are facing the challenges head on.

Edwards Ambulances Director of Operations Joseph Jennings doesn’t understand why people aren’t volunteering like that used to. “…We don’t know why there’s no paramedics or advanced life support providers in the area…we used to have a stack of applications — and we have some to choose from, but right now I have nothing. I have probably four applications in my drawer,” says Jennings.

When people make that call to 9-1-1, they rely on an ambulance to arrive ASAP. but with the lack of EMTs, it makes that task difficult. Henry Stewart, Assistant 911 Director for Otsego County says, “Volunteer agencies having to use commercial agencies at least in our area. American Medical Response [commercial agency has] to be dispatched with them during the day because people can’t leave their day jobs to be going out and answering calls.”

Jennings says the number of calls went down during the covid-19 pandemic, and because of the lack of phone calls, they got rid of one of their ambulances to reduce expenses. Now Edwards Ambulances operates with three ambulances.

“We’re always trying to get volunteers in and I think it’s definitely a difficult task, especially with coronavirus…who would want to come out and do ambulance calls and not knowing if they’ll get it or not,” says Stewart.

Overall, to fix the shortage, it starts with getting more people to take classes to become certified as an EMT. “…that’s going to be the most important thing, for time to come..getting people to do these classes,” says Jennings.

We reached out to Herkimer County Emergency Services, but have not received a response.