Push on to boost paramedic count
Gillespie said he wants to obtain training for three of his emergency medical technicians (EMTs) to make them paramedics. But money in his budget for that kind of training is scarce.
How important is it that the EMTs get the training?
“I’d say it’s urgent,” Gillespie said. “We need them on staff.”
The normal staffing level for the Port Aransas EMS is six: Three paramedics and three EMTs. Right now, the department is short one paramedic. The department has been advertising to fill the position for four weeks, but no qualified folks have applied, Gillespie said . e EMS has used contract
Th labor to temporarily fill the unfilled slot. But using ambulance workers from other agencies on a part-time basis isn’t a good long-term solution, Gillespie said.
“They have other jobs they are committed to, so they aren’t always available,” he said . e
Th paramedics on hand at the Port Aransas EMS are Gillespie and Greg Holland.
Brian Valendia is an EMT-I (the “I” stands for intermediate). Justin Sain and Daniel Johnson are trained on the EMT basic level.
All three of the EMTs want to train to be paramedics, Gillespie said.
An EMT can do things like bandaging, splinting, taking blood pressure and respiration rates and giving oxygen to patients.
A paramedic can do all that and more, like providing fluids through IV tubes, administering certain medicines to patients with heart problems and performing EKGs to examine heart rhythms.
Gillespie said he has identifi ed an online course that could make the EMTs paramedic status. The course, offered by an EMS training organization called PERCOM, of Abilene, will cost about $4,800 per student and would last about 15 months.
In addition to taking the online course, students normally have to appear in Abilene to do some training and testing in person. The travel would have cost the Port Aransas EMS more, but PERCOM has agreed to send an official to Port Aransas to do that, with no additional charge, Gillespie said.
Right now, the EMS budget has less than $4,800 that’s earmarked for training, and if that is used to turn an EMT into a paramedic, that would leave no money for the continuing education that all of the ambulance personnel need each year, Gillespie said.
City Manager Robert Bradshaw said he supports the move to seek public contributions for the training.
Bradshaw said he’s “proud of department heads who reach out to the private sector to kind of form some publicprivate partnership.”
EMS Auxiliary President Selma Artley has said the auxiliary will contribute some money toward training EMTs to be paramedics, but no decision has been made yet on how much.
The Port Aransas Chamber of Commerce-Tourist Bureau board of directors voted on Thursday, Jan. 12, to donate $2,000 toward the cause of getting the EMTs trained to be paramedics.
“We are very concerned about the safety issue,” said Ann Bracher Vaughan, president and CEO of the chamber .
Vaughan noted that she’s glad for the presence of Dr. Bruce Russell’s office, but she pointed out that there’s no emergency room on Mustang Island. That, she said, makes it all the more important to have plenty of highly-trained ambulance personnel on hand.
“It’s an issue that needs to be addressed,” Vaughan said. “The care and protection of our citizens and tourists is vitally important to this community.”
The auxiliary and chamber donations still leave the EMS several thousand dollars short of the amount needed to get all three EMTs trained.
Betty Crawford is among Port Aransans leading the charge to raise money for the training. Crawford’s husband, George Crawford, has suffered seven or eight heart attacks during the 22 years the couple has lived in Port Aransas, and the Port Aransas EMS responded each time, stabilized him and got him to a hospital, Betty said.
“They saved George so many times,” she said.
Everyone in town needs the strongest EMS possible, Betty said.
“ Everyone needs them, whether they’ve used them or not,” she said. “All they have to do is have a loved one fall down or get hit by a car, and they will have a need for them.”
Betty said she spoke about the need for donations at a meeting of the Port Aransas Garden Club, of which she is a member, on Tuesday, Jan. 10. Presentations also are taking place at other civic organization meetings in town, Betty said.
Some in town have expressed concerns over the possibility that EMTs could resign and move to another city for another EMS job after benefitting from the local donations that get them their paramedic status.
But Gillespie said each of the EMTs have agreed not to leave the Port Aransas EMS “anytime soon” after getting the training.
Gillespie said he is eligible to retire from the city, but he hasn’t decided when he’ll do that. He said he wants to make sure the EMS is adequately staffed with well-trained people before he leaves. He added that he plans to do volunteer work with the department after he retires.
Anyone who wants to make a donation should make out checks to Port Aransas EMS and write “paramedic training” on the memo line, according to Darla Honea, the city’s finance director. The donations will be used for nothing but paramedic training, she said.
The city can provide receipts that donors can keep for tax purposes.
Donations can be mailed to Port Aransas EMS, 710 W. Ave. A, Port Aransas, TX., 78373.
While the EMS might be worried about funding for staff training, the department doesn’t have many complaints when it comes to its ambulance fleet .
Th e EMS got a brand-new Crestline ambulance late last year, putting it into service in November. The city council approved the purchase, with money for the vehicle coming from the city’s general fund.
The ambulance cost $129,164, with the auxiliary providing $20,000 of that.
The city has two ambulances. The new ambulance replaced one that was purchased, new, in 1991.
The EMS couldn’t get much money for the old ambulance on trade-in because the vehicle was in such bad shape, so the city has decided to keep it, turning the vehicle’s chassis over to the Public Works Department for use there, Gillespie said.
Questions? Comments? Contact Dan Parker at (361) 749- 5131 or firstname.lastname@example.org.