Paramedic, EMT shortage across the nation due to pandemic stress: Waterbury ambulance crews discuss impact

New Haven

WATERBURY, Conn. (WTNH) — It’s a critical condition impacting cities and towns all over Connecticut and the nation: a shortage of paramedics and EMTs.

“We’ve seen a significant shortage of EMTs and paramedics,” explained Beth Szantyr, a field supervisor for Trinity Health of New England EMS in Waterbury. “It’s very serious in Connecticut. People are running short-staffed across the state.”

To try and make up for the shortage in numbers, first responders have had to adapt. “Shorter break times, longer times in between meals,” said Szantyr.

She also tells News 8, mutual aid agreements between neighboring communities have helped to maintain emergency response.

“We all have to help each other; that’s not just right now, that’s always,” she said. “This is 911 and you expect us to be there.”

She says the COVID-19 pandemic is the primary culprit for the shortages nationwide. It prevented ambulance companies from being able to conduct proper training for those applying for jobs. That’s because a certain number of instructional hours has to be done in the ambulance.

“We weren’t allowed to have outside parties before the vaccination came out in the building or in an ambulance and also we didn’t want to expose people to unnecessary risk,” said Szantyr.

That had a domino effect — people who were interested in applying had to wait and couldn’t go forward with the process. That impacted the numbers, especially when older EMTs or paramedics left to pursue other careers.

“EMS does have a high turnover,” said Szantyr.

But there is good news, at least at Trinity EMS Waterbury. Since COVID restrictions were lifted, Szantyr says applications have been way up.

They’ve recently had nine new hires. That doesn’t include Stephen Soldi. Wednesday was his second day on the job at Trinity EMS Waterbury. That figure also doesn’t include Kaylea Misiewicz, who’s been an EMT Basic for about a month there.

“I really like helping people,” Kayla said. “And I wanted to make a difference in people’s lives.”

Her new field supervisor sees a light at the end of the tunnel.

“Any new face that comes in here is a welcome sight,” said Szantyr.

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