CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Staff shortages are plaguing so many different industries right now. Some of them may impact a child's bus ride to school or a family’s experience at a restaurant, but Mecklenburg County Emergency Services (MEDIC) is also low on first responders, and that could impact someone when it matters most.
In the seconds following an emergency, having a MEDIC crew ready and able to respond quickly is a matter of life and death, but there are currently 45 EMT and paramedic openings in Mecklenburg County.
Amid those openings, MEDIC is slammed due to the number of COVID-19 positive patients they're transporting is still rising. With fewer people to help, some emergency workers are working mandatory overtime to help fill the gaps.
“You have situations you’re in which are not always secure or safe," Jon Studnek, the deputy director of Mecklenburg County Emergency Services, said. "It’s a mentally draining and physically demanding job, and you add on top of that the concerns of a pandemic where you could get exposed to a virus.”
Also, there are fewer people getting into the field, and more MEDIC employees than usual left the job in the last year. They hope incentivizing the extra work shifts will help combat the physical and mental toll it's taking on their employees.
So far, the community has not felt the impact of the shortage. They're still able to maintain the number of ambulances needed, and response times have not slipped.
Studnek said they've controlled the risk and the COVID-19 cases they've seen among employees often comes from exposure outside of the job. But that doesn't take away the very real threat in an already stressful job. Studnek believes it's a risk worth taking.
“Literally to be able to save a life is tremendously rewarding," Studnek said. "In those cases where patients may not need a lifesaving intervention right away but need some compassion or some care, the simple process of holding someone’s hand who is afraid is really a very affirming profession."
MEDIC officials say the community can help. Getting vaccinated and wearing masks in public will help bring some of the COVID-19 numbers down to relieve some of the stress they're feeling.
Those interested in working for MEDIC should apply online.