Volunteer EMS agencies facing staffing shortages

Volunteer emergency medical services agencies in eastern New Mexico and West Texas are facing staffing shortages, according to local EMS officials.

CNJ staff photo: Benna Sayyed

Stan Miller, Bovina mayor and certified paramedic, left, and Larry Mitchell, Bovina EMS Director and licensed paramedic inspect equipment on their department's only ambulance.

Most departments only have about half the volunteers they need, officials said.

One of the reasons is the requirements to become a certified emergency medical technician are getting tougher and require more class hours.

Jan Elliot, executive director of EMS Region Three, which covers Curry, Roosevelt and 10 counties on the east side of the state, said volunteers have had to pay out of their pocket for ambulance fuel, training and equipment costs.

Barbara Teel, volunteer EMT in Milnesand, said her department has a volunteer EMT staff of five but needs at least 10 volunteers. She said it's difficult to find people willing to train extensively to obtain and maintain their licensure.

"We do what little we can," Teel said. "It's hard when we're at work and have to be called out on a run. You almost need four or five people to go on a run. We always need a driver and at least three in the back."

Kenny Jacobs, chief of Melrose Volunteer Fire Department, said his department has 20 volunteers on its roster but only 10 to 12 are active.

"We talk to people and we try to stay socially visible," Jacobs said. "We need reliable people who want to volunteer and who are willing to put the time in."

The Clovis Fire Department, which has a paid EMS staff, is called on to help small neighboring communities when local EMS is not available. Burns said CFD helps its rural contemporaries with training and education free of charge.

CFD offers free in-house training in fire and EMS services once a month, she said.

"We are the paid service in Curry County so our commitment is to partner with these departments and make sure they can keep their services alive," Burns said.

In Parmer County, Bovina Mayor Stan Miller and Bovina emergency services director Larry Mitchell have discussed with county officials adding a 1 1/2 cent tax to EMS volunteers.

Mitchell said his department used to have 20 to 25 volunteers on staff at all times. He said Bovina now has nine volunteers and Farwell has about seven.

"You work all day and have to go sit in class all night long to be an EMT," said Mitchell, who has volunteered for Bovina EMS for 34 years. "Then to go on to a paramedic level it takes up to two years. That's a lot to ask a volunteer."

To volunteer for EMS services in the following towns:

Bovina — City hall, 806-251-1116

Farwell — City hall, 806-481-3620

Floyd — Delbert Rector, 575-607-6052

Milnesand — John Mohan, 575-309-1628

Melrose— Kenny Jacobs, 799 -5548

Texico — Attend EMS meetings between 6 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Mondays at Texico City Fire Department, 121 North Turner St.

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