Legislation seeks to strengthen EMS support

U.S. Reps. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK), Andy Kim (D-NJ), Cindy Axne (D-IA), Mike Carey (R-OH), Al Lawson (D-FL), Bruce Westerman (R-AR), and Marc Veasey (D-TX) recently introduced the Supporting Our First Responders Act, which seeks to enhance emergency medical services (EMS) agency support.

The legislation would establish a new grant program under the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to aid emergency medical services (EMS) agencies with the hiring and retaining of qualified staff, training reimbursements, and facility upgrades, among other provisions.

“In rural Oklahoma, our EMS providers are often the difference between life and death, and ours are in a crisis,” Mullin said. “Oklahomans cannot simply live without these safety net providers. And with no current federal funding stream for EMS, despite these heroes working day-in on the frontlines, our communities are abandoned. I am proud to support this bill to ensure those in Oklahoma continue to have access to high-quality health care.”

The lawmakers maintain EMS staffing shortages stemming from an overall 30 percent turnover rate of full and part-time EMTs and paramedics nationwide, combined with rising costs to purchase equipment and fuel, are forcing EMS agencies to make decisions that include whether to reduce or even cease operations, especially in rural America.

Oklahoma is one of 37 states that does not classify EMS as an essential service. Local governments are not required to provide the services.

“Communities across the country are struggling to keep their ambulance services operating because of the crisis level workforce shortage,”
National Association of EMTs (NAEMT) President Bruce Evans said. “Many services have had to close. We appreciate Congressman Kim and other Members of Congress working to address this crisis.”

Douglas Clark

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