CAMDEN, S.C. (WIS) - South Carolina’s EMS Association is looking to raise the number of paramedics in the state, and brought back its old leader to get it done.
Former Association President Henry Lewis took over as the association’s first Executive Director on Monday. He’s the first full-time employee for the volunteer-based association.
His goal is to bring another 3,000 workers into South Carolina’s EMS ranks over two years. That includes full-time and part-time employees at all levels. “This is a unique position, and it’s not for everyone. In a lot of ways EMS is a calling as much as it is a profession, so we need to think about what we’re doing as far as the messaging we put out in the field, and thoughtful about what we’re doing to try and have a return on that investment,” he said.
A December 2018 report from the association and the SC Office for Healthcare Workforce outlines there were 882 full and part-time vacancies statewide, with 252 in the Midlands.
Lewis said that’s just part of the picture.
He cited association data from 2019 which outlines there were 11,197 EMS-certified individuals in S.C. Of those personnel, the association reports 3,138 are not an EMS roster (retired, moved, or left the industry) and 4,394 have not had contact with a patient in a year (manager or educator).
That left a force of 3,665 statewide to address what Henry estimates are 3,000 calls for service per day.
“We are not in a crisis state now, but we would head that way if we don’t do things now to mitigate what’s in front of us. As we mentioned with an aging workforce, with a lack of folks entering the workforce, we could see a timeline years in the future where we could end up at critical status.”
Henry said he will be traveling the state to connect with agencies, high schools, and lawmakers about recruitment, education, and benefits.
Association President William Tatum said member agencies will also need help with recovering the financial impact of the pandemic.
“Facing the increased protective equipment that were needed, the amount of sick time that providers were facing that may have contracted COVID-19, all these things kind of hit at once. So financially, it put some folks in an uncomfortable situation,” he said.
Tatum said he is hopeful Henry’s hire will be the first step to a larger paid staff moving forward.