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Ark. County EMS struggles with long shifts, long patient transports

A Logan County paramedic once worked a 120-hours shift and transports sometimes have a 6-7 hour turnaround time


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By Bill Carey

LOGAN COUNTY, Ark. — A paramedic and EMT shortage is causing Logan County EMS personnel to work long hours, have little sleep and believe that their safety and patient safety is at risk.

Logan County EMT Chris Yarborough told KFSM that in total, 12 EMTs and four paramedics serve the entire county and a large amount of their workday is spent on the road transporting patients outside the county.

“It is very tiring; the fatigue is there. We recently had a paramedic work a 120-hour shift, and within that time, he maybe got five hours of sleep on and off,” Yarborough said.

Yarborough said patient transport is adding to the increased work hours. “If it is to Fort Smith, which is a three-hour turnaround. If we go to Little Rock, it could be a six to seven-hour turnaround. We have had to go to Springfield, Missouri or Tulsa, Oklahoma, which is more than half a day.” 

Logan County Judge Ray Gack said recruitment is difficult due to a nationwide shortage. Competitive salaries make it hard for the county to compete with other counties. He said the county’s four paramedics are working 36-hour shifts.

Gack said the county is working to fund long-term pay raises and avoid outsourcing its EMS to a private company, while also recruiting more paramedics and EMTs. “A long-term solution is figuring out how to get people to come work here,” he said.