A the North River Fire District in Manatee County, officials say lately it’s been hard to hire paramedics.By Casey Albritton

MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) – Local fire departments are experiencing an EMT and paramedic shortage.

A the North River Fire District in Manatee County, officials say lately it’s been hard to hire paramedics, and it’s making it difficult to respond to an increased number of emergency calls.

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Assistant Chief for the North River Fire District in Manatee County, Joe Sicking, says “Recently been trying to lure in firefighter paramedics and it is definitely a position that’s not easy to fill. There are a lot more opportunities these days for paramedics in hospital scenes or doctor’s offices, things of that nature. Even traveling paramedics i’ve heard about. There’s a lot more opportunities out there and the shift work, the 24-hour shift, and working calls isn’t necessarily appealing to everyone.”

He says a big part of the shortage is because of the pandemic.

“COVID-19 obviously and things in the community that has made the job busier,” said Sicking.

Terence Ramotar, with the Florida Ambulance Association, says two years ago the state was already seeing a shortage of EMT’s and paramedics, but the pandemic caused many people to become nervous about exposing themselves to COVID-19.

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“Over the past two years we’ve been seeing staff that has left the industry all together, going into other fields,” said Ramotar

He says another reason for the shortage is because paramedic schools shut down during the pandemic.

“So that was a significant source for us, so those schools are now playing catch up,” said Ramotar.

Ramotar says some agencies across the state are down in staffing by 20%.

“To make up for those missing ambulance hours, we are depending on our folks to work an incredible amount of overtime,” said Ramotar.

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“Getting these paramedic firefighters is a tremendous need for our agency,” said Sicking.