Emergency response to EMT shortage, firefighters say – NBC Boston

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A critical shortage of paramedics and EMTs is straining emergency responders, delaying response times and putting lives at risk, the city’s firefighters union has warned.

The problem, which the union says is impacting cities and towns across the country, sometimes quadruples the ideal response time, which it says poses a serious threat to public safety.

“They stretch them way too thin so they just can’t do what needs to be done,” said John Brophy, chairman of Peabody Firefighters IAFF Local 925. “We sometimes wait 15, 20, even 25 minutes for an ambulance , which is a bit unacceptable.”

Brophy said before the pandemic hit in 2020, the city had four ambulances and six paramedics at all times. Now, he said, he has only three ambulances, with no more than two paramedics to respond to 911 calls.

He blamed the pandemic, low wages and work-related stress for the employee exodus.

“I just spoke to someone who just said they gave their two weeks notice because it’s untenable,” Brophy said. “They’re making non-stop calls. They’re in the truck 24 hours a day.”

He said the city uses a private contractor for its ambulance services, Somerville-based Atlantic Cataldo. The city does not pay for these services, but the company benefits from emergency calls.

City fire chief Joe Daly agreed the staffing shortage was a “concern” but said the situation was not as dire as the union claims. He also said departments across the country were experiencing similar staffing issues.

Brophy said he and other union members plan to meet with Mayor Edward Bettencourt in early August to discuss potential solutions, including adding city-owned and operated ambulances to improve turnaround times. answer.

Atlantic Cataldo did not respond to a request for comment.

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