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Maine health system struggles with EMS worker shortage

Although 170 people work in emergency medical services and transport at Brewer, Maine-based Northern Light Health, the system is about 10 percent understaffed in this department, CNBC reports.  

Emergency medical technicians and paramedics are in demand across the U.S., with about 37,400 jobs set to be added through 2026.

Northern Light faces several challenges in hiring EMTs and paramedics, including being in a rural community and finding workers who will commit to the job, which may require up to two years of training, recertification and continuing education. 

About five years ago, there were 15 to 20 applicants per open position at Northern Light, but today, it's not uncommon to post a job and have zero applicants, Joe Kellner, the system's vice president of emergency services and community programs, told CNBC.

"Fewer people are entering the profession, unemployment is low, and this is also a job that many people used to get into through volunteerism and in local communities. There is a lot less of that," Mr. Kellner said. "The pathway in is harder and harder, but we try to create solutions for that."

Funding can also be an issue for some communities, as reimbursements to the health system are outpaced by wage pressures and operating costs.

To help resolve these issues, Northern Light's EMS system is run in partnership with a larger nine-hospital system throughout Maine, which allows for more reliable funding.

The company also reimburses for tuition for these workers, offers competitive paid time off and a retirement plan with a matching employer contribution.

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