EMSA Seeing Strain On Resources Amid Extreme Weather Events, COVID-19 Pandemic

Wednesday, July 28th 2021, 5:20 pm


The EMSA Board of Trustees approved tiered units in the western and eastern divisions.

Right now, EMSA works with advanced life support (ALS) units on the streets, which means their trucks are staffed with a paramedic and an EMT. With the addition of basic life support (BLS) units, these units would be staffed with two EMTs. 

If the BLS units were added, they would be able to do an estimated 22,000 calls a year from around 25 specific categories identified by the medical director's office.

"We think this is an effective and tested way to make sure we have the appropriate levels of staffing, and we are getting the right resources to the right patients," said Adam Paluka, EMSA spokesman.

But before BLS units are added, it must go before the city councils in Tulsa and in Oklahoma City. Right now, there is still a lot of strain on the system as staffing is still a struggle.

"They are definitely tired and there is some fatigue, but they take pride in the work they do for their community," said Paluka.  

EMTs and paramedics have been working around the clock, taking patients through winter storms, heat alerts and COVID-19. Paluka said they have recently seen an uptick in suspected COVID-19 patient transports.

"In early June, we may have been doing eight to 10 a day," said Paluka. "Whereas now, we are doing upwards of 30 to 40."

The uptick came as EMSA has been doubling down on recruiting more paramedics and EMTs to join their ranks. They have been going out of state to recruit and have been offering sign on bonuses, as much as $20,000 for paramedics.

Paluka said a silver bullet won't fix staffing right away. They will have an uphill climb to be at 100%.

He said they are also working on getting those who have been working in the shortage some rest and recovery.