DURHAM, Conn. (WTNH) – Many towns and cities across the state are facing a challenge because of a shortage of volunteer EMTs.

Durham decided to hire paid part-time workers to help fill the gaps, but it wasn’t really cost-effective compared to the amount of revenue coming in. So the town approached Middlesex Health, which is now providing basic life support ambulance services.

“You can’t imagine how much peace of mind it is because they are in two 24/7. We know that. We already know that our response times have improved,” said Laura Francis, Durham First Selectman. “They were already handling our ALS service, advanced life support service, for the town of Durham so it was a natural fit.”

When the pandemic hit, Lou Brockett, retired chief of the Durham Volunteer Ambulance Corps, said his 22 volunteers dropped down to just five.

“Because of the COVID period, we lost quite a few people and that was not only here just in Durham, but it was throughout the whole United States, so we had to take action,” Brockett said.

Having Middlesex Health take over the ambulance service doesn’t cost the town any money. There’s a 6-year no-cost contract and for those who do need the service, they don’t necessarily have to go to Middlesex Hospital, unless medical protocol dictates that.

Brockett, who sits on the state EMS Advisory Board Education and Training Committee, has advice for towns still struggling to find volunteers.

“You got to get your organizations together and start pulling together as a region,” Brockett said.

He said even paid services are finding it hard to hire enough people.