Fire departments thinking outside the box in light of paramedic shortage
Northern Kentucky and Southwest Ohio fire departments say they need a new generation of paramedics to come on board
CINCINNATI — Northern Kentucky and Southwest Ohio are seeing a drop in people who want to be paramedics.
Cincinnati.com reported that although the starting salary is around $50,000 in the region, several fire departments are seeing a shortage in people interested in the position.
"There are fewer paramedic schools around locally and the number of people going into this career seems to have dropped as well," Blue Ash Fire Chief Rick Brown said.
With an expected wave of paramedic retirements, Northern Kentucky will need 175 new paramedics in the next five years. Pierce Township Fire Department Chief Craig Wright said their paramedic salary has been increased to retain part-time paramedics.
"We have been running at minimum staffing levels a fair amount of the time and using overtime to fill when necessary," Chief Wright said.
To keep ambulances staffed, Northern Kentucky firefighters succeeded at getting a new college-level paramedic program.
"That's something we've been working on getting into Campbell County for a long time," Fort Thomas Fire Chief Mark Bailey said.
In Ohio, Cincinnati State has three annual classes of 24 paramedic students each.
Another problem with recruiting paramedics for municipal fire departments is that in the private sector, paramedics can choose to not be firefighters.
"Hospitals are now hiring paramedics to work in the emergency rooms and are offering higher wages and benefits than most fire departments can afford," Springfield Township Fire Chief Robert Leininger said.
Independence Fire Department is being forced to hire EMTs with less training than paramedics.
“Typically there aren’t as many paramedics who sign up," Independence Chief Scott Breeze said. "We get more EMTs. In the last three years, two out of 13 of the staff we’ve replaced have been paramedics. The rest were EMTs.”
Firefighters are now working together to ensure enough paramedics will be hired in the future.