EMS looking to hire after shortages

Winchester Fire-EMS temporarily downgraded one of its ambulances to BLS status Sunday night because a paramedic was not available.

Fire officials, though, anticipate hiring several new employees within the month to help alleviate the shortage.

The Winchester Professional Firefighters Local 1807 posted about the change Sunday on social media.

Winchester Fire-EMS Chief Cathy Rigney said the ambulance in question was not taken out of service or browned out. It continued to operate as a basic life support ambulance, rather than advanced life support, which requires a paramedic.

“We did not have to shut down an ambulance or shut down a station,” Rigney said, indicating this was something the department has done before.

“It was not an ideal situation,” she said.

The department was fully staffed Monday, with all three front-line ambulances operating as ALS units.

“It’s an absolutely day-to-day operation,” she said. “Today, we’re fine.”

Within the next month, Rigney said she hopes to have seven more people join the department to alleviate some of the staffing issues which have led to fire trucks being parked on at least one occasion earlier this year.

Of the seven, Rigney said three are already trained firefighters coming from other departments, while the other four would have to complete the department’s 15-week academy.

“Then the light at the end of the tunnel may be a little bigger,” she said.

In October, both Winchester Fire-EMS and Clark County Fire Department browned out one truck on consecutive days because of staffing issues. Both agencies have been struggling to recruit and retain employees, as have others throughout Kentucky and the nation.

In July, the Winchester Board of Commissioners also voted to create six new EMS positions at the city fire department to grow with increasing run volume. The city and county jointly fund EMS operations, and a joint committee is looking at the entire EMS situation, including staffing and funding.