Knox County EMT staff returns to pre-pandemic levels

American Medical Response officials say Knox County staff is around 85% of a full staff.
Published: Jan. 5, 2023 at 10:48 PM EST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - The pandemic caused staffing shortages in a lot of industries, including health care. Ambulance services across the country struggled to respond to calls with a thin staff.

East Tennessee was no different but they are recovering.

“During the peak of the pandemic, we saw our staffing level decrease to the 65% range,” Regional Director for American Medical Response, Joshua Spencer, said.

Spencer said ambulance squads across America dealt with staffing issues during the pandemic. But, the Knoxville AMR team has gotten back to a pre-pandemic level.

“Since then, we’ve bounced back a little bit, and we’re probably hovering around the 80 to 85% of full staff at the moment,” Spencer said.

Spencer calls that a slight shortage, and right around the national average. He credits the turnaround to an ‘earn while you learn’ program, where people can get paid while training for the job, plus scholarship programs. Most of the new EMT’s, are new to the field.

“I’ve seen some return to the industry after a brief break,” Spencer said. “But for the most part, those that have left the industry, have genuinely left the industry.”

But in Knoxville, there is a shortage of one supply: blood.

“Our O-negative is at less than a day’s supplies. So technically when you look at the report, there are zero units on the shelves,” said Kristy Altman, Director of Communications for MEDIC Regional Blood Center.

Altman said they do have about 30 reserve units of O-negative if hospitals need to use it.

Altman said there is typically a shortage this time of year, likely because people have been focusing on the holidays, and are out of their usual routine.

Altman encourages anyone to donate blood if they’re able, especially if they have O-negative since that’s the universal blood type.