The Need to Avoid EMS Staffing Reductions During Budget Cuts
By Allison G. S. Knox, M.A., EMT-B, Faculty at American Military University
As local governments make budget cuts in an effort to maintain their finances and prevent layoffs, it is critical for lawmakers and emergency medical service (EMS) leaders to remain mindful of appropriate staffing levels. Inadequate staffing for EMS could have more dire consequences than lawmakers anticipate.
For emergency medical services (EMS), when budgets are cut and staff are reduced, the result can include problematic responses to emergency calls, inadequate training of personnel, and, sometimes, lawsuits. But, there are steps that EMS leaders can take to avoid these negative outcomes.
Clearly Identify the Needs of EMS
While budget cuts are often inevitable, advocates for EMS agencies must identify the needs of their departments and push to ensure that those needs are met. Such an effort can be quite difficult during times of economic strife, but it is especially crucial when it comes to adequate staffing levels. The quality of patient care cannot be compromised and, ultimately, advocates need to stress this to local government officials.
Educate Lawmakers about Challenges
When advocating for proper staffing levels, it is important to communicate the realities of providing emergency services. Many lawmakers operate under the assumption that emergencies rarely happen. However, EMS professionals know differently. It is important to clearly communicate the daily challenges faced by EMS providers so decision makers understand the immediate impacts of reduced staff.
EMS officials need to work closely with lawmakers to create appropriate staffing budgets so ambulances and other services are appropriately staffed. EMS managers should actively seek the support of lawmakers—and not just during times of economic strife. Building a strong relationship with lawmakers can help support the needs of EMS now and in the future.
About the Author: Allison G. S. Knox, M.A., B.A., EMT-B is on the faculty at American Military University. She is also the Faculty Adviser and Chapter Sponsor for the West Virginia Iota Chapter of Pi Gamma Mu International Honor Society. In addition to teaching, Allison is an Emergency Medical Technician and worked in a level one trauma center emergency department throughout college. She participates annually in “EMS on the Hill”, advocating for legislation that will benefit Emergency Medical Services. Allison is working on her doctorate at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University and holds three Master of Arts degrees in Emergency and Disaster Management, International Politics and History. Her undergraduate degree is in Political Science. You can reach her directly via e-mail: Allison.Knox3@mycampus.apus.edu