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Harford County finding success as it fills its EMT, paramedic ranks

A Prince George County firefighter walks the halls of UM Laurel Medical Center in Laurel, Maryland.
Susan Walsh/AP
A Prince George County firefighter walks the halls of UM Laurel Medical Center in Laurel, Maryland.

Harford County is making significant progress on filling its emergency services ranks after taking over as the main recruitment manager for emergency medical technicians and paramedics this year.

Harford hired 24 EMTs and 28 paramedics since January, according to Rick Ayers, the director of emergency services.

The county still needs 16 more paramedics and 17 EMTs to get to full capacity.

“The county is giving us a $5,000 bonus that will be paid to the employee once they complete their probationary period,” Ayers said.

He added that the county has about 100 people who have applied for those jobs.

Harford County previously used the EMS Foundation as a hiring service since the early 2000s, however, last year the organization said it could no longer perform that role.

“We put a committee together, and we put a plan in place to transition,” Ayers said. “We've been very successful in transitioning their operation over to the county.”

Other parts of the country have not been as lucky. About one-third of EMTs quit their job in 2021.

A 2022 American Ambulance Association study found that many parts of the country are having trouble filling those roles. Nearly 40% of part-time EMTs and 55% of part-time paramedic positions went unfilled because of a lack of qualified candidates.

Emergency vehicles are also taking a hit as the supply chain continues to stay volatile.

Baltimore city says it may need about $40 million to keep its ambulance and fire fleet from deteriorating.

“We have a total of 17 fire companies that are permanently staffed, we're down five,” Joshua Fannon, president of the Baltimore Fire Officers Association, told the city council’s Public Safety and Government Operations Committee. “This is not because we don't have the staffing for it, it’s because we don't have the physical apparatus for it. And that is an unacceptable situation and puts a lot of our members at risk.”

Scott is the Health Reporter for WYPR. @smaucionewypr
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