MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Efforts to recruit and better train EMS workers in the state are picking up steam.
Gov. Jim Justice announced plans last week to commit $10 million in American Rescue Plan money to address the problems. The problems range from reimbursement rates for services, training requirements and pay for workers.
“We have been talking to EMS services to find out what we could use the $10 million for and what is in the best interests,” Del. Joe Statler. R-Monongalia, said. “And we listened to what the governor said and he was not interested in short-term fixes- he wanted something with a long-term effect.”
Pay has been presented as a major challenge for departments to lawmakers throughout the state. Compensation is a major challenge along state borders where many organizations lure trained professionals for a short commute.
“Some of these other jobs are paying $18 and $20 an hour and we’re starting some of these EMTs across the state at $11 and $12 an hour,” Statler said. “I have to tell you, that’s a stressful a job and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out we have to do better.”
Statler said Dr. Cynthia Persily, vice chancellor for Health Sciences with the state Higher Education Policy Commission, is working with lawmakers to develop the training plan to expand the workforce. One plan is already in place at the Monongalia County Technical Education Center in a partnership with the local school system. About $169,000 of that earmarked sum will completely pay for tuition, books, uniforms, certifications and supplies for 100 EMTs this year.
“There are 1,010 paid slots across the state of West Virginia for people to attend these classes,” Statler said. “I know there are over 900 that have already been accepted.”
Statler noted the amount of retirements and people that have left for other careers or jurisdictions. Like many other public safety careers, the demand is high for trained workers, but interest is low in pursuing jobs in the field. A portion of that money will be used to implement those training procedures.
“Additional training for leadership- as you know retirements and we need a new line of people coming up that are trained,” Statler said. “In this money there is a course that they can get college credits for taking leadership roles in the EMS services.”
Lawmakers have also approved the purchase of five mobile training ambulances. The units will be available for refresher training, continuing education and certifications or re-certifications. Those vehicles will be inspected by lawmakers later this summer before being put into service.
“That will travel around to the five regions in the state, so they can call and that lab will be made available to the schools where they are teaching,” Statler said.
The EMS issue will continue to be discussed in monthly legislative interim committee meetings.