EL PASO, Texas --
The El Paso Firefighter's Association president Joe Tellez said Wednesday to KFOX there's a dire need for more certified paramedics in El Paso, otherwise, they'll burn out. Meanwhile, the fire department and the city manager said the department has never been closer to full capacity than now, and that there is no shortage.
Tellez argues there aren't enough certified paramedics to rotate personnel on a regular basis, which is why some look for promotions within the department or burn out.
Paramedics at station 25 average 10 to 12 calls a shift.
"The permanent burnout issue is of great concern to us. We are short certified paramedics," said Tellez. He said it seems fewer firefighters are willing to train to be paramedics because it takes a year and involves more responsibilities and more stress.
The majority of calls the department responds to are medical calls, and each call can take about an hour and a half.
"In a 24-hour shift, there are times that at best we get two to three hours of sleep, and towards the end of your day, it gets kind of rough when you're really exhausted and you have to keep running calls because there's no one else to fill in for you," said Wayne Baker, a paramedic at station 25.
Baker, who is faced with life and death situations almost daily, said he's gotten used to the stress associated with his job. The only time he gets a slight break from it is when he's put on firefighter duty and gets to drive the big red truck.
"We're suppose to rotate once every 10 shifts, which is approximately once a month. There's been times when I go three or four months (without rotation)," said Baker.
Meanwhile, city officials and the department are trying to entice more firefighters to make the switch to paramedic by offering higher pay. It disagreed there's a shortage of paramedics because all 21 ambulances are always staffed.
"Within the paramedic-firefighter, staff we only have three vacancies. There is no adverse impact on service. We have 11 future paramedics in training right now, and if they pass and get their certification, we'll have more than sufficient paramedics on staff," said city manager Joyce Wilson.
The additional paramedics can't come soon enough for Baker who said he loves helping others no matter what the cost.
"I know that I did the best that I could. When I go home at the end of the shift I can sleep better (because of that)," said Baker.
Some of the incentives offered to paramedics are an extra $300 a month, and when they're on ambulance duty they get 5 percent over their base pay.
Copyright 2009 by KFOXTV.com.
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