AUSTIN, Texas — On Friday, Austin City Manager Spencer Cronk announced the proposed budget for the Fiscal Year 2021-22, and Austin EMS Association said they were left out at a time where they are experiencing a historic staff shortage.
Austin EMS Association President Selena Xie said Austin-Travis County EMS is short 100 medics, forcing them to drop two ambulances this week.
"In fact, last night, we took down two of our ambulances because we simply can't staff them right now and that's a failure of long-term planning," said Xie.
The proposed budget allocates $105 million for emergency medical services. Xie said there is no new funding within that $105 million. EMS is getting 12 medics and the new Loop 360 Fire/EMS station, which was already in the works.
"I was actually highly-disappointed in what we saw for EMS," said Xie. "We have added one new ambulance, which has been agreed to by ordinance a few years ago, and so we actually didn't add any new resources in this budget."
Xia said the pandemic and the historic winter storm exposed the need for more EMS staff and equipment. But she added that June's mass shooting on Sixth Street, which left one dead and 14 others injured, put a blaring light on it.
The world witnessed Austin police transport most of the victims because EMS couldn't get through the crowds.
On Friday, Cronk said the City will look for more funding.
"Our budget had pretty much been backed when that incident, unfortunately, happened, so that is part of how we will move forward to say how do we find additional resources to support those efforts," said Cronk.
Xie said before the mass shooting, the association asked for downtown response units on weekend nights with golf carts and life-saving equipment for faster response times.
"Also have a stretcher so that they can actually transport patients," said Xie. "We're asking for two motorcycle medics that can quickly navigate through the crowds and through the road blockages and assess the situation. And then also we are hoping that we can bring a trailer where we can bring patients to while they're waiting for treatment in the trailer. We can actually provide treatment for intoxication, including rehydration, IV rehydration and nausea medication."
Over the past few weekends, Xie said the department has seen a record-volume of calls.
"People are really excited to get out and enjoy the reason why they live in Austin, which is the nightlife and so many other things," said Xie.
District 9 Councilmember Kathie Tovo said she is working closely with Xie to address the changes.
"I am very supportive of increasing our sources for EMS and look forward to that budget conversation about what are the most appropriate resources," said Tovo. "It seems to me that there is very likely a need for those additional staffing levels and potentially also equipment to make sure we can get those individuals who need medical attention from those crowded places."
The community will have the opportunity to give feedback on July 22 and July 29. Austin City Council is scheduled to adopt a final version of the budget on Aug. 11.
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