Trio of state legislators propose bill addressing EMS shortage in rural communities

Published: Aug. 25, 2023 at 9:21 PM CDT
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - A trio of republican state legislators are working to bolster the emergency services workforce.

“What we’re proposing is that 17 year olds be allowed to be a part of the emergency medical services,” said State Representative Karen Hurd.

The republican representing District 86 said having adequate staffing is necessary to help with ambulance response times, even more so in rural communities.

“It’s not that that they’re doing an inefficient job. No! It has nothing to do with it. If you don’t have the people, you don’t have the people,” said State Rep. Hurd.

She said protocols will be in place for teens interested in jumping into EMS work.

“We’ve built in safeguards because, you know, we want to we want wanted to 17 year olds are still considered children. They’re minors,” said Hurd.

The includes parental consent, having a sponsor in the field, following local child labor laws and keeping up with school attendance.

Hurd said, the state could help with costs for apprenticeships already offered to high school students.

“They can be taking the training and then the state would actually reimburse the schools for them taking their EMS test. And then they can then they can work in the field and we need them,” said Hurd.

Bloomer Community Ambulance Service Chief Mark Schwartz said when he started over a decade it was fine having smaller teams.

“But back then we were only doing 300 calls a year. Now we’re doing 800 calls a year. Every year, our call volume is our new record high and it’s been like that for the last couple of years now,” said Chief Schwartz.

With more and more calls coming in, Schwartz said bringing in new blood could be the answer.

“I think any legislation that helps us increase access to the education that youth can take advantage of is great because while our patient population is aging, our provider population is aging too,” said Chief Schwartz. “We’ve had people on our service here in Florida have been on for over 34 years. You know, they’re not going to be here for another 34 years. So we need some youth to get in here and start filling in the gaps of where we have our aging population and start leaving.”

State Representative Warren Petryk and State Senator Jesse James are also part of the trio that introduced the bill.

Hurd said it could be after Christmas the bill makes it to the floor.

If the bill passes and gets sign by Governor Evers, it could go into effect as early as 2024.