'EMS Counts Act' introduced in Congress
WASHINGTON — A new bill has been introduced in Congress that seeks to provide a more accurate count of EMS personnel throughout the country.
The EMS Counts Act was introduced by Rep. Susan Wild (D-Pa.) and Rep. Fred Keller (R-Pa.) last week and has been endorsed by numerous fire and EMS organizations including the NAEMT, IAFC, IAFF, NREMT and American Ambulance Association (AAA), according to a press release.
The aim of the bill is to collect accurate and comprehensive data on the quantity, location and training of EMS providers throughout the United States in order to ensure communities can efficiently respond to emergencies, such as disease outbreaks and natural disasters.
"Throughout this pandemic, we have seen this diverse group of health care practitioners step up to serve our communities in inspiring and selfless ways, and making sure we have an accurate count of these first responders will help us meet the health and safety needs of our communities through this crisis and in future emergencies," Wild said in a statement.
The EMS Counts Act sponsors stated that the Department of Labor Bureau of Statistics' current system for counting EMS providers is insufficient because it does not recognize crosstraining of firefighters who are also EMTs or paramedics. This flaw in the bureau's occupational classification system "leads to a significant and chronic undercount of EMS personnel in the U.S.," the press release states.
The undercount makes it more difficult to track gaps in emergency services and plan for disasters and for the daily health and safety needs of communities.
The EMS Counts Act would require the Secretary of Labor to revise the occupational classification system by dividing the category of firefighter into sub-categories that account for EMS crosstraining.
"Whether fire fighters, paramedics or other first responders, EMS personnel work collectively and often perform multiple duties to keep our communities safe. Without accurate data that recognizes EMS personnel who perform dual roles, many departments miss out on vital grant funding and other investments," Keller said in a statement.
EMS and fire service leaders applauded the bill's introduction, saying it will benefit public health and safety by providing states and localities with the necessary information to properly leverage the workforce for emergencies.
"This legislation will improve the ability of our states and communities to effectively utilize their EMS workforce to care for the sick and injured and respond to major disasters and public health crises," said NAEMT President Matt Zavadsky, in a statement. "We look forward to working with Rep. Wild and Rep. Keller on this foundational bill to better capture the number of Paramedics and EMTs in our country."
"This bill recognizes the crucial role of firefighters in providing EMS care by requiring the Bureau of Labor Statistics to include dual-role firefighters/EMS personnel in their count of EMS personnel," stated Chief Richard Carrizzo, chairman of the board for the IAFC. "Obtaining an accurate count of EMS providers is key to developing sound federal programs that provide for the health and safety of communities. The IAFC urges Congress to support the EMS Counts Act and recognize the intrinsic connection between EMS and firefighters."