Ambulance services are facing a shortage in New York — a statewide problem that's coming at a busy time.
People wanting to be certified as emergency medical technicians or paramedics during the COVID-19 pandemic had an easier time doing so, with an emergency order that allowed them to take one of two tests — a state one, or a national exam. But New York's statewide emergency order was lifted in June, leaving hundreds of people in a backlog waiting to be certified after taking the national exam.
"The thing that compounds that right now is we have this huge personnel and staffing shortage across the country, particularly prevailing here in New York," said Mike McEvoy, the Saratoga EMS coordinator.
McEvoy said ambulance services around New York have seen a significant rise in calls in recent weeks, with more people out and about as pandemic restrictions are lifted.
"In many cases, it means people can't answer calls because they're not able to find people to fill the openings that they have — and that's significant," he said.
And with hundreds of people waiting in line to become EMTs, that's meant ambulance services are stretched thin with the workers they have.
"Unable to fill shifts means that people are answering more calls and answering their neighbors' calls as well as their own," McEvoy said.
And state lawmakers have noticed the issue, including Republican Assemblywoman Mary Beth Walsh. A fix can be done by state health officials with no legislation is needed, she said.
"Things like this, particularly related to public health and public safety, we can't allow it fall through the cracks," Walsh said.
Walsh this week urged state health officials to address the issue and allow EMTs to be certified under both tests.
"These two to four hundred people are just in limbo," she said. "They're just caught and we want to make sure they can get to work because we need them."