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'We need support to survive.' Michigan EMS providers call on state to provide investment

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Posted at 2:33 PM, May 20, 2021

(WXYZ) — Michigan EMS providers testified before the Michigan Legislature Thursday in a plea for more funding.

Leaders said that EMS is on life support and needs investment to survive.

They said there hasn't been any new investment in EMS in more than 20 years. Additionally, pandemic-related costs have forced ambulance providers to "sound the alarm" and ask for help.

“We have been triaging this problem for a long time, but the pandemic exposed the flaws in our system and pushed us to the brink,” said Jeff White, chief at Richmond/Lenox EMS, in a press release. “It’s no longer possible for us to deal with this crisis on our own and we are asking for support from the state.”

EMS providers from Huron Valley Ambulance, Tri-Hospital EMS, Richmond/Lenox EMS, and Southwest Michigan Community Ambulance Services testified Thursday before the House and Senate Health Policy Committees, explaining the difficult situation the industry and its staff are facing.

“Over the past few years, our industry has been experiencing a significant decline in the availability of EMTs and paramedics and it’s become so bad that some ambulance services have been forced to reduce coverage to their communities,” said Ken Cummings, president and CEO of Tri-Hospital EMS in St. Clair County, in a press release.

Denise Pope, a paramedic from SMCAS, testified about how the lack of available staff has impacted paramedics like herself.

“There simply aren’t enough of us to work and serve our communities. In a typical week, I often work 70-90 hours just to ensure shifts are covered. Working this many hours isn’t sustainable for anyone and we need help getting more staff into our industry so we can protect our communities.”

The Michigan Association of Ambulance Services and the Michigan Association of Fire Chiefs is hoping the severe underfunding the industry has faced for decades can be the place to start.

MAAS and MAFC are urging state leaders to include a $10 million increase in state funding for EMS services to bolster Medicaid reimbursement rates. Currently, EMS services are only reimbursed for 10 to 25 percent of their costs.

Michigan EMS services also are seeking a $5 million one-time tuition grant to get more paramedics and EMTs into the pipeline quickly so that ambulance providers can continue to serve their communities.