Richland County EMS facing staffing shortage, employees ask for answers

COLUMBIA (WOLO): Richland County EMS is one of the largest EMS systems in the state, running more than 76,000 calls in 2020. The coronavirus pandemic has added an extra layer of stress for paramedics and EMTs, leading to a greater staffing issue in the EMS system.

“It takes a special type of person. Our employees see these patients, citizens, on their worst day,” says Richland County EMS Captain Winta Adams. “COVID-19 has affected our employees just as it has affected anybody else.”

But when duty calls in EMS, someone must be there to answer. An email  sent to ABC Columbia News from a concerned Richland County EMS employee shares concerns of under-staffing and overworking.

It states in part:

“In the past several months, there has been an exodus, mostly of paramedics. Being undermanned on the street has always been the problem in Richland County EMS, but now the problem is becoming dire and its business as usual.”

The employee and Richland County Captain Adams says no call ever goes unanswered in the county, but the employee says crews are stressed to get the job done, running back to back calls for 13 hours straight, leading to high turnover.

“We have men and women who are running calls their entire shift. And that’s a lot of stress,”says Richland County Administrator Leonardo Brown.

Brown was made aware of the issue and says a large part in resolving it is through funding.

“The needs of the department or the division being great because of the response needs, but we also have to balance that with what revenue do we have? What resources financially can we apply towards this because there’s also a finite number of resources, and there’s an infinite number of issues,” said Brown. 

According to the email, these issues are urgent. It states, already this quarter, 10 paramedics, or 20 percent have left the job. Those who stay are hoping for a change.

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