Cabell County desperate for EMTs

Cabell County EMS has several positions to fill while also continuing to prepare for upcoming retirements.
Published: Dec. 21, 2021 at 9:52 PM EST
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HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - Worker shortages are plaguing industries all across the country.

However, one business that can’t afford a shortage is Emergency Medical Services.

“I have never experienced shortages like this,” said Gordon Merry, director of Cabell County EMS.

He’s been working in emergency services for almost five decades, but current staffing shortages and hiring challenges have him more concerned than ever.

“It’s bad for everyone,” he said. “No one’s winning.”

Long wait times at the ER mean ambulances are being tied up for hours at the hospital.

“Up to three hour wait time in the emergency room,” Merry said. “We’re sitting with a patient on the cot, and we can’t answer a call because there’s no bed at the inn.”

Cabell EMS is down about 10 employees, which means other ambulances are sitting idle because there’s no one to drive them.

Reporter Kelsey Souto asked Merry what his biggest fear and concern was about the current situation.

“That there’s going to be a call for service that I can’t get to,” Merry said.

During the weekend, there were several overdoses reported at Western Regional Jail. Three people were transported to the hospital by ambulance. At the same time, a shooting was called in along Eighth Avenue.

“That hurts when you only have eleven trucks and we lose eight at one call and the county is 300 some-odd square miles,” he said. “That’s rough on us.”

Other nearby agencies depend on Cabell County EMS for mutual aid, including those in Wayne, Putnam, Lincoln and Lawrence counties. Now, they’re sometimes having to turn down calls for assistance.

“I’m just scared that it’s going to have a really bad outcome,” Merry said. “We’ve rolled the dice too many times.”

One employee, taking matters into his own hands, has used his creative talents to produce a recruitment video which is being shared on social media.

“It isn’t only your fate, it’s the fate of everyone you’re met with,” says a voice in the video.

Merry says there’s no simple, quick fix. He says they’re trying to think outside the box, because it’s a complicated problem facing the entire health care industry all over the U.S.

“I think EMS is broken right now,” he said. “I’m not sure what the solution is.”

It will require citizens, residents and future lifesavers to step up, since entire communities are relying on them.

Merry says when he initially applied for the program back in the 70s, there were about 600 applicants for 25 open positions. Now, the story is much different.

To learn more or apply, click here.

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