Paramedic and nurse talking to senior woman in wheelchair
Credit: Paul Burns/Getty Images

Long-term care providers are now struggling with a shortage of ambulance operators in addition to their own struggles with finding workers during the ongoing public health crisis. 

The problem has reared its head in Massachusetts in particular, but not solely, as long-term care providers desperately search for solutions to ensure residents can be safely transported, according to local reports.

The state’s emergency services industry has seen the number of staffed vehicles drop by more than a third since 2015, with the decline accelerating due to the pandemic, said the Massachusetts Ambulance Association. The $14 to $18 per hour wage range for EMS workers, given the risks, aren’t enough to attract potential workers, noted association President Dennis Cataldo. 

That has resulted in an ambulance service backlog, leaving nursing homes and hospitals to seek other ways to provide EMS transportation for residents and patients, such as through local fire departments and private car services.

“It’s much more of a challenge for us, that’s for sure,” said Anthony Franchi, administrator of the Ellis Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Norwood, MA. The facility has started using a van service to take residents to doctors’ appointments. 

The issue has also left many hospitals overcrowded and has prevented potential residents from being discharged into skilled nursing facilities. 

“It’s been extraordinarily difficult,” Emily Dulong, vice president of government advocacy and public policy for the  Massachusetts Health and Hospital Association, told WBUR, Boston’s National Public Radio station. “It wasn’t easy pre-pandemic, but this is one of those situations, similar to what we’ve seen in behavioral health, has just been only exacerbated by the pandemic.”