Mont. agencies working together to fight paramedic shortage

Great Falls amended their policy of sending paramedics to every call so that they can free up enough responders to provide ALS coverage to outside districts

GREAT FALLS, Mont. — In an effort to combat the paramedic shortage, a city policy was changed to provide more care to outside districts.

KXLF reported that Great Falls Emergency Services General Manager Justin Grohs reached out to Great Falls Fire Rescue to discuss ways to work together to make sure the paramedic shortage does not affect service.

“From a service standpoint we are keeping our guard, but with these types of issues we do like to stay ahead of the problem,” Grohs said.

GFES currently has two openings for paramedics, and GFFR has 18, which is six short of their target goal.

“In the last couple of years we have had a few members retire and we have had promotions with no program set up to fill those ranks up from below,” GFFR Assistant Chief Jeremy Jones said.

Grohs said that while paramedics are sent out to every medical call, most 911 calls only need Basic Life Support.

“When we started to really look at it, historically here in Great Falls we have sent a paramedic to every single medical call that came into dispatch,” he said. “Our original city contract stipulates that all ambulances that respond to 911 calls in the city needed to have a paramedic on board.”

Grohs worked with GFFR to come up with a solution, and the city amended the EMS Transport Contract.

“We entered into a memorandum of understanding with them for the remainder of this performance contract that the third ambulance can be at a Basic Life Support. Being that we provide Advanced Life Support coverage to our outside districts in our community. We are able to step onto that ambulance and provide that ALS level of care,” Jones said.

Both agencies said that while the plan has worked, more paramedics are still needed.

“Wherever that paramedic is coming from, whether it would be off an ambulance or off a fire engine, what they need to know is they are getting the highest level of pre-hospital care in our community,” Jones said.

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