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Calif. city council unanimously approves hiring more EMTs

Santee officials will hire part-time EMTs to create an additional shift to keep up with EMS demands


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By Lauren J. Mapp
The San Diego Union-Tribune

SANTEE, Calif. — The Santee City Council unanimously approved a plan to enhance emergency medical services by hiring four additional part-time staff members.

The council last week greenlit a four-month trial that started Monday during which the Santee Fire Department will have an additional 12-hour shift, seven days a week for basic life support ambulance service. The council approved adding $43,784 to the Emergency Medical Services budget to hire four, part-time emergency medical technicians to assist with the trial shift, which will run from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. during the first two months of the trial and from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. during the last two months.

Santee Fire Chief Justin Matsushita said that in adding the additional shift, the department aims to address the increasing demand for medical support calls to the department, which also serves Lakeside and the Bostonia area of El Cajon. Eight years ago, the department identified the need for additional ambulances because the four that it had at the time were extremely busy.

“Part of the reason for this increased need of our transport ambulances is because the system has just changed so much,” Matsushita said. “Oftentimes, we will have ambulances that are just stuck at the hospital on what we call offload delays.”

Until the beginning of last year, Santee was in a partnership with the County of San Diego, which Matsushita said had administrative control over the department and didn’t agree that it needed new ambulances.

When Santee and Lakeside took over administrative duties at the start of last year, the department added two 12-hour shift teams, one servicing each city. But even with those additional shifts, the department has still needed more support to keep up with the demand for calls.

Because nearly half of calls to the department are for minor health issues, such as a broken foot, the department sought to hire emergency medical technicians to cover them and free up paramedics for more serious emergencies, like heart attacks and strokes.

The trial will be evaluated at the end of the four-month period.

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