Tired EMTs could be putting patients at risk

November 15, 2018 07:51 PM

Every second counts during an emergency. When we call 911, we expect first responders to be alert and prepared. However, long hours and low wages are making it increasingly difficult for emergency medical technicians, or EMTs, to save lives after arriving on the scene.

An EMT at Mohawk Ambulance for two years, Alyssa Bevilacqua Shufelt explains the terrifying moment she and many of her co-workers have experienced as "micro-sleeping."

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"I remember leaving the station – lights and sirens – and then waking up in front of the house of the patient. I don't remember driving at all. Then, my partner was asleep next to me," recalled Bevilacqua Shufelt.

Last year, she and ambulance driver Cody Bryans were sent to transport a patient from Albany Medical Center, to his home in Sloansville. They never made it. Bryans fell asleep at the wheel.

"I felt a big bump and I thought it was a pothole and then we just smacked into a tree," recalled Bevilacqua Shufelt.

The patient died from his injuries. Shufelt is still trying to recover from PTSD. She's afraid the same thing could happen again.

An accident investigation report found Bryans was eight hours into a 12-hour shift, following a 14-hour break.

However, Bevilacqua Shufelt says with EMT wages averaging $12.51, many employees work multiple jobs in their time off to make ends meet.

A sick call results in a short staffing, which can lead to mandatory overtime for co-workers who are already on the clock. 

There's no law that establishes the amount of hours an EMT can work. Companies are free to dictate their own scheduling and pay standards and do so with a union, if one is involved.

So, while their intentions may be to serve and protect, if an EMT is tired, there's a good chance you may be putting your life at risk when you dial 911.

See more of Karen Tararache's report here.


Karen Tararache

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