EMS Medical Directors & ambulance service leaders urge lawmakers to take action and bolster critical ambulance services
St. Paul — EMS providers across Minnesota are confronting serious challenges as they face staff and volunteer shortages and increased demand for emergency medical services, EMS leaders said at a State Capitol press conference today.
Advocates gathered in St. Paul to meet with lawmakers and encourage action this year to bolster ambulance services.
In the 1980s, the federal government began decreasing financial support for ambulance services, leaving local services responsible for funding. Today that contributes to financial pressures – the price tag to operate one ambulance with 24/7, 365 on-call access is close to $1 million annually. And that’s with many rural EMS programs dependent on “volunteers,” who are often modestly compensated but not at levels truly commensurate with the time they give and the services they provide.
Each year ambulance service providers throughout the state respond to nearly 715,000 calls for service annually using 804 individual ambulances. All Minnesotans count on EMTs and Paramedics throughout our state to provide not only transportation, but high-quality out-of-hospital care to keep Minnesotans safe and healthy.
Dr. Aaron Burnett practices Emergency Medicine at Regions Hospital in St. Paul and Lakeview Hospital in Stillwater. He serves as an EMS Medical Director for several agencies in the Twin Cities East Metro. He believes in the importance of strong pre-hospital patient care and has witnessed the building pressure on EMS and ambulance services.
“This is probably one of the most important things coming up in the next 10 to 20 years as our population gets older and older,” said Dr. Burnett. “As a state we shouldn’t wait until there’s a public outcry because people can’t get an ambulance in a timely manner. Every day citizens in Minnesota rely on EMS services for emergency care. We owe it to those patients to ensure our EMS system is appropriately supported and funded at the state level.”
Dylan Ferguson became executive director of Minnesota’s Emergency Medical Services Regulatory Board in February 2022. His organization has compiled data showing the workforce shortage in EMS, as workers leave the field in pursuit of better pay and working conditions.
“Minnesotans depend on emergency medical services every day,” said EMSRB executive director Dylan Ferguson. “As the state's lead agency for emergency medical services we are working together with our fellow government agencies, officials, and health care and community leaders to reverse these concerning trends and ensure a sustainable system.”
- Of EMTs not renewing their license and leaving the profession, nearly 65% are under the age of 40
- In 2021, 4,474 certifications expired while 1,558 certifications were issued – a deficit of 2,916 EMS providers
- 39% of EMS providers leaving the profession said their decision was influenced by low pay
EMS leaders shared solutions to the workforce and funding challenges and encouraged lawmakers to talk with providers in their areas to learn more about these issues:
Stevens County EMS Director Josh Fischer noted that navigating increased gas costs has been particularly difficult at the same time as a worker shortage.
- Increased reimbursement levels from the Federal Government and State Government by realizing opportunities to leverage more Federal dollars for Governmental payers. Legislation will be introduced soon to address opportunities.
- A focus on improving retention of the current EMS workforce, such as the income tax subtractions for Volunteer Fire & Rescue Workers in HF 98
- Development and support for future EMS workforce, including Establishment of a Paramedic Scholarship Program, HF 165, and funding for current and new EMTs under HF 141
“We still have to respond, we still have patients that need to be cared for and transported and we can’t simply increase what we bill because what we bill doesn’t correspond with what we actually get paid when we’re talking about Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement," said Fischer. “We need our elected officials at all levels to help us pursue sustainable solutions to these challenges.”