Mass. recruiting temporary EMTs in anticipation of COVID-19 surge

BOSTON — Preparing for a possible surge in COVID-19 cases, Massachusetts is recruiting more EMTs to the frontlines.

Boston 25 News spoke with two private ambulance companies who both said calls for service are way down, by 30 or 40% since the COVID-19 crisis began, but with an anticipated surge of illnesses coming, the state wants to make sure there are enough EMTs and paramedics ready to help.

"The whole idea is for surge staffing, or if we get into a pinch where we have staff that are out due to the virus," said Greg Davis, VP of Operations, Transformative Healthcare.

Transformative Healthcare owns Fallon and Lifeline Ambulance Services.

"Looking at the other models, looking at what's happened throughout other countries and other states, it looks like a surge is about to occur. So to be prepared and ready to go is always a good thing," said Davis.

The Massachusetts Office of Emergency Medical Services is issuing temporary EMT certification to applicants who are certified in another state or previously were certified in Massachusetts within the last ten years.

"This is great pre-planning. Right at the moment we're not at that point, but it's good pre-planning to get people ready for it," said Davis.

But Keith Wilson with Brewster Ambulance Services isn't so sure,

"Protocols change, equipment changes, if we're going to do this, it has to be done right," he said.

Because technology and policies change, Wilson said he's worried about bringing in former EMTs who haven't been certified in years.

"It concerns me," said Wilson. "The basic levels, we can implement it a little more easier with the basic EMTs, but the paramedic, the advanced skills would really take a little more time."

The Department of Public Health tells us “Ambulance services will be required to ensure that all EMTs and Paramedics with temporary certification receive full training on the Emergency Medical Services Statewide Treatment Protocols—the standard of EMS patient care in Massachusetts—as well as on all current standards before they can begin providing care. Additionally, all EMTs with temporary certification must have current CPR training credentials, and paramedics must also have Advanced Cardiac Life Support training credentials.”

The state is not accepting applicants whose certification was revoked, suspended, surrendered, or otherwise not in good standing.

Anyone interested can apply through the DPH’s website.

Officials tell us as of Thursday morning, DPH has received 25 applications for temporary certification and has issued six Temporary EMT Basic and one Temporary EMT Paramedic certification. As with all currently certified EMTs, EMTs with temporary certification may apply for jobs at any ambulance service.

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