HAP Blog

Addressing Pennsylvania's EMS Crisis

HAP testifies about the value of the EMS community to patients, hospitals

March 01, 2022

Pennsylvania’s emergency medical services (EMS) providers serve a critical role across the commonwealth, but are facing growing financial pressures and workforce challenges.

The House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee hosted a public hearing today about Pennsylvania’s EMS crisis. The hearing addressed workforce shortages, licensing and funding issues, and other challenges facing Pennsylvania’s EMS providers.

Chris Chamberlain, MS, RN, CHEP, HAP’s vice president, emergency management, was among the panelists who highlighted the invaluable role that EMS providers play in supporting patients, hospitals, and communities.

“As hospitals, we rely on EMS in a variety of situations,” Chamberlain said. “The ability to move patients is something that hospitals fundamentally rely on every day to ensure that Pennsylvanians can reach emergency, trauma, and post-acute services.” He also noted that EMS providers transport patients efficiently and safely from hospitals to other appropriate care settings, freeing up beds so they can be used by others who need acute or specialty care.

Among the key takeaways from the hearing:

  • Certification woes:  During 2021, more than 2,600 emergency medical technicians allowed their certifications to expire, and 63 percent of those individuals were younger than 40
  • Billing challenges:  Current payment models do not support EMS agencies for the care they provide. “In many cases, if EMS does not transport someone somewhere, there is no way for them to get paid,” Chamberlain said
  • Workforce shortages:  The EMS sector is suffering from the same workforce crisis that hospitals and the rest of the health care continuum are experiencing and needs support to address recruitment and burnout
  • Rural crisis:  There is an acute shortage of EMS providers in rural areas, limiting their ability to respond during emergencies

“EMS is a critical component of the safety net that protects the health of the commonwealth,” Chamberlain said.

HAP continues to advocate for policies that support the recruitment and retention of the health care workforce, including EMS providers, with education, mid-career re-training, scholarships, loan forgiveness, and other incentive programs.

HAP supports House Bill 1868, which would expedite professional licensure for veterans and military spouses and increase the number of people qualified for EMS and other health care professions.

Additionally, HAP supports Senate Bill 861, which would allow Pennsylvania to join 21 other states in the interstate EMS licensing compact and allow EMS personnel to work across state lines.

More information about the hearing, including the list of today’s panelists, is available online.

For additional questions, contact Chris Chamberlain, MS, RN, CHEP, HAP’s vice president, emergency management.

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