America’s EMT shortage has left small towns to rely on volunteers |
“Companies don’t come to places where you have a sick workforce.”
Mar 7 2020
Vice News, OCEANA, West Virginia — If you call 911 with a medical emergency in this tiny Appalachian town, chances are Nick Lawrence is the guy who’ll show up.
He’s one of a handful of volunteer EMTs in Wyoming County who answer calls 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“Obviously, we’re not in it for the money, because there’s no money. There’s absolutely zero benefits whatsoever,” Lawrence told VICE News.
In West Virginia, more than half of the population lives in rural areas.
The number of emergency personnel dropped by nearly 20% in the state from 2015 to 2018, according to numbers obtained by VICE News.
In 1981 when President Reagan cut taxes, he eliminated federal funding for emergency medical services, leaving states and cities to figure out how to pay for them on their own.
Cities were able to come up with the money, but often small towns couldn’t collect enough taxes to keep professional EMTs on the payroll. Volunteers picked up the slack.
Even if an EMT or paramedic can respond to a call, there might not be anywhere to take patients. 166 hospitals have closed in rural areas since 2005 … Read more.