As population ages, EMS crews worry about keeping up

CARLISLE, Pa. (WHTM) – A senior concern across the state. With the population aging, EMS crews fear they may not be able to meet the demands.

At Cumberland Goodwill EMS, they are always on call. A majority of those calls are for people age 65 and older.

“[It is a] trend pretty much nationwide as the baby boomers age. They reflect it as a diamond. So we’re just at the tip of the diamond and we still have a but to go through that’s it’s going to blow out and increase volume,” said Nathan Harig of Cumberland Goodwill EMS.

What is not increasing is the number of EMS workers. EMS officials said it is becoming increasingly difficult to recruit and retain new members because a lot of the positions are volunteer, and there is a lot of time and training that goes into it.

“We’re seeing a double crisis going on here,” Harig said. “People are getting older, sicker. They’re needing 911 a lot more. We’re also seeing a lot fewer EMS providers out there.”

Cumberland Goodwill EMS is trying to keep call numbers down with a community health program. They make house calls to check vitals and make sure people know how to stay healthy.

“We’re not there to replace the home nurse agencies. We’re very much a bridge from the emergency to long-term sustaining care that keeps them out of the hospital and out of the backs of our ambulances,” said Harig.

Other organizations, like Messiah Lifeways, a senior community, are also finding ways to deal with this issue.

“Over the last few years we have added nurses who can do wound care right here and also nurses who are trained to put pick lines in. And so by doing those things here, we are reducing the number of people we send to the hospital,” said Kristen Heisey, Messiah Lifeways Spokesperson. “If we can do that, and we already are seeing great strides, that is going to reduce the pressure on EMS because they will have less people to transport.”

According to the PA Area Agency on Aging, as of July 1, 2014, the number of Pennsylvanians age 65 years and older hit 2.1 million. They predict by the year 2030, 3.6 million Pennsylvanians will be aged 60 and older.

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