Lawmakers, Advocates Push for Legislation to Improve CT Emergency Medical System

The advocates want to address an EMS worker shortage they say leads to delayed response times.

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Some state lawmakers and medical professionals are pushing for legislation that would improve Connecticut’s emergency medical system.

Senate Democrats brought proposed reforms before the Public Health Committee Monday. They say a shortage of EMTs and paramedics is leading to slow response times in parts of the state and burnout for workers.

One thing that we use for sure on every EMS call is probably our Life Pack 15 here. We use this to monitor patients, get their vitals,” Treyvon Chin, firefighter-paramedic with the East Hartford Fire Department, said.

At the East Hartford Fire Department, each first responder takes on a dual role.

“You're both a firefighter and a paramedic. We respond to both calls,” Chin said.

In the year-and-a-half that Chin has been with the department, he has frequently jumped into the paramedic intercept vehicle.

“Nowadays, we actually do more medical calls than we do actual fires,” Chin said.

However, the East Hartford Fire Department is just one of many in the state with vacancies.

“We have about a dozen spots open, and it's challenging to find people that want to enter this business,” Steve Alsup, East Hartford assistant fire chief, said.

That is why department leadership joined dozens of other medical professionals at the Legislative Office Building Monday, advocating for state law that would improve Connecticut’s emergency medical system.

“We need to protect our EMS services,” Sen. Saud Anwar, (D-South Windsor), said.

Anwar is behind proposed legislation that Senate Democrats brought before the Public Health Committee.

The reforms they want include developing a database to track response times. They want to raise Medicaid ambulance rates until they equal Medicare rates, to provide some relief to EMS general funds.

The advocates also want to focus on recruitment, and offer tuition reimbursement for EMT programs. They are pushing to raise pay for EMTs and the more highly trained paramedics.

Advocates say the state needs to take steps to address a worker shortage that is creating “EMS deserts” in parts of Connecticut. Those are typically rural areas with almost no ambulance coverage.

Somebody has an emergency, they have to wait for 40 minutes before somebody would respond. That's not acceptable. And that is going to get worse, unless we intervene and fix this.

-Sen. Saud Anwar (D-South Windsor)

Representatives for towns and cities across the state voiced support for reforms they believe would improve response times.

“It's very difficult to keep up with that workload,” John Elsesser, Coventry town manager said, citing that EMS calls are up.

Many also believe the reforms could curb EMT burnout in a post pandemic world.

“Manchester is certainly struggling to recruit new EMTs and paramedics,” Josh Beaulieu, Manchester assistant fire chief, said.

In East Hartford, Chin says filling the dozen paid vacancies in the department would be helpful, especially when firefighter-paramedics are working overtime and taking calls in surrounding areas.

“We do occasionally help out other towns, if they call for mutual aid,” he said.

On top of that, they are doing lifesaving work.

“Being able to help somebody in their time of need, it’s hard to explain the fulfillment you get from something like that,” Chin said.

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