2022 HEALTH CARE EDITION
EMS meeting its response time goals amid stang ‘crisis’
ATCEMS has kept pace with its response time goals for emergencies in Austin while falling behind outside the city in Travis County.
94% 96% 90% 92% 86% 88% 82% 84% 78% 80% 74% 76% 72% 70%
BY BEN THOMPSON
Austin-Travis County EMS is facing a stang “crisis,” according to Austin EMS Association President Selena Xie. More than 22% of sworn emergency manage- ment services positions were unlled as of late May, including more than 27% of eld medic and clinical specialist spots. Over 17% of civilian sta positions are also vacant. In 2021, more than 120 vacancies were recorded and 65 cadets hired. Acknowledging those trends, ATCEMS Chief Robert Luckritz also said the depart- ment remains “the best EMS system in the country” and said his oce remains focused on retention and progressive changes to attract new medics. A national shortage of people seeking to become EMS workers, pandemic-related burnout aecting all sides of the medical eld and Austin’s own spiking cost of living all play into the EMS depart- ment’s stang struggles, he said. In an April update Luckritz said the department will look to change several aspects of recruitment in order to ll its ranks, including removing a staggered application period to allow interested medics to apply anytime, cutting experience requirements for potential new hires and working on an improved promotion process. Luckritz also requested that the city budget for dozens of additional sworn employee slots annually through scal year 2025-26. ATCEMS is currently budgeted for up to 665 sworn positions with around 150 vacant as of late May. Luckritz said bumping that total up to 761 budgeted spots could result in the elimination of all vacancies over a four-year period. “How do we drive people to want to join this profession? What we want to do is do outreach to individuals in the community who might not have
RESPONSE TIME GOALS
Priority 1 - 09:59 Priority 2 - 11:59 Priority 3 - 13:59 Priority 4 - 15:59 Priority 5 - 17:59 City of Austin
Travis County Priority 1 - 11:59 Priority 2 - 13:59 Priority 3 - 15:59 Priority 4 - 17:59 Priority 5 - 19:59
Response times lengthened during Winter Storm Uri
SOURCE: AUSTINTRAVIS COUNTY EMSCOMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER
proposed a slight raise to entry-level pay to $19.79 hourly, while AEMSA started at a request of $27. Xie said talks are now at an “impasse” with competing oers of $22 and $24.70 per hour. City negotiators have said that answering AEMSA’s call for a larger pay hike for Austin medics is not possible in part due to state-imposed caps on city revenue collections, and that getting the department fully staed within the next few years is also “not realistic.” Xie pushed back on city assertions that the medics’ oer is “greedy” and said more action is needed in order to simply maintain the local EMS force in the face of growing discontent. “The burnout is really real,” Xie said. “After doing what we did for two years and then the city basically tell us that the most they can do is a $0.14 raise was just really, I think, the last straw for a lot of people.”
the same educational opportunities ... and recruit them to become EMS professionals,” Luckritz said. Despite its current shortfall, ATCEMS data shows the department’s medics have been able to meet their response time goals in Austin for well over 90% of calls for service they receive. However, the department is seeing less success in Travis County outside of the city with a less than 86% response time success rate in April. Xie also said the shortage is aecting specialized work including responses to mental health calls. “People want emergency services, and they are not getting it right now,” she said. The stang conversations come at a time when AEMSA and city representatives are hashing out the next labor agreement for medics in the city. That process, underway for months, has been marked by a signicant gap between union asks and city oers in pay discussions. The city initially
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NORTH CENTRAL AUSTIN EDITION • JUNE 2022
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