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Thread: Life as Paramedic in New Orleans Post-Hurricane Katrina is Chaotic

  1. #1
    Administrator Neil's Avatar
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    Dec 2001
    South West

    Life as Paramedic in New Orleans Post-Hurricane Katrina is Chaotic

    Life as Paramedic in New Orleans Post-Hurricane Katrina is Chaotic

    The Journal of Jefferson Parish

    Life as a paramedic in post-Hurricane Katrina Jefferson Parish is chaotic and uncertain. Mike Guillot, director of emergency medical services for East Jefferson General Hospital, said a decrease in manpower and available hospital beds, combined with an increase in population and wait times at emergency rooms, has piled additional levels of stress onto an occupation known for its high-pressure environment.

    "Plus we have a population that has increased by several hundred thousand, which increases traffic, so every day we're struggling through Christmas-like congestion," Guillot said. "Then, when the paramedics get to the hospital, they are delayed up to two hours before they can offload a patient off the stretcher because emergency rooms are so backed up.

    " When two or three ambulances are stuck at a hospital waiting up to two hours to unload a patient, it means those crews can't respond to emergency calls. Last week, Ochsner Health System and Touro Infirmary reported wait times of up to four hours at their emergency rooms. The main problem is the absence of Charity and University hospitals, Guillot said. Steven Brown, EMS director for West Jefferson Medical Center, said long wait times have become a significant problem.

    Since January, WJMC has accumulated 539 hours of wait time above the national average. "When we don't have a unit to send on a 911 call we wind up on the front page of the paper or national news because somebody died because we couldn't respond," Brown said. "We have mutual aid agreements with other providers to help but ultimately responsibility falls on us. "

    East Jefferson EMS averages approximately 3,500 calls a month, a 4 percent increase from the same period last year. But the number of calls it has to roll over to private contractors has increased 63 percent from 23 a month to 63. "We've gone from having to roll over less than one call a day to at least two," Guillot said.

    The number of calls West Jefferson EMS has had to roll over has increased 20 percent. Part of the problem is a lack of manpower. East Jefferson EMS dropped from 100 emergency medical technicians and paramedics to 90 with no one available to plug the holes.

    "I used to have people waiting in line to get a job with us but now there's nobody," Guillot said. "Part of the problem is that we're competing in salary with places like McDonald's and Krispy Kreme. We have a starting salary of $10.56 an hour for an EMT and Burger King is paying people $12 to $14 and hour. We offer benefits but people aren't looking at benefits, they're looking at that hourly wage and they jumped all over those fast food jobs. "

    To compound the problem, Guillot said the number of trauma cases and violent incidents has increased after the hurricane. "We never used to see the violence that the Orleans Parish medics saw but I'm telling you violent crime is up here. There's a lot of the criminal element living here.

    More people are carrying weapons and people have shorter fuses. " Despite the new challenges, Guillot and Brown say their paramedics have performed heroically.

    "Medics in Orleans and Jefferson have stepped up to the plate and are busting their butts to get the job done," Guillot said. "We have a lot of dedicated medics and we keep pushing them harder and harder every day. We're running them ragged but they're in it for the long haul. They were here during the storm and they're still here every day. They have no quit in them. "

  2. #2
    Registered User
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    May 2005
    Hollis NH formerly QueensNY
    When I came on the NYPD in the 80's ,I worked in the Bronx and the paramedics were wearing bullet proof vests at the time,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,qnsnyc

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