Breaking News
More () »

Austin EMS staffing shortage leaves some neighborhoods understaffed to cover UT football

"We've been covering our staffing crisis with just piling on mandatory overtime, and the workforce says, 'That's enough,'" said the EMS union president.

AUSTIN, Texas — Because of an ongoing staffing shortage, the Austin EMS Association president said the department had to move units out of neighborhoods to cover the University of Texas football season opener and a festival at COTA. 

"We moved some of the ambulances from the neighborhoods to cover UT because of the large number of people that you see and the likelihood of alcohol incidents and other types of incidents," said Austin EMS Association President Selena Xie. 

Xie said moving ambulance units left at least two neighborhoods without adequate coverage on Saturday. She said one of the two units moved to the game was initially stationed in northwest Austin.

At the same time, five other units sat because there were no EMTs to staff them.

"I have not been able to see what the response times were for this weekend, but I know it was really busy, and so I know that our response times were affected," said Xie. 

The department is currently 20% short on staffing. It's a year-long issue that she hoped recent contract negotiations would fix. 

"So our medics now start at $22 an hour," said Xie. "We were asking them to start at $27 an hour, which would make them competitive with the private market." 

That newly increased pay doesn't kick in until October. Xie said that to hire and retain medics, pay and retirement benefits need to align with what other local safety agencies offer.

"We also know that the police dispatchers just got a really large raise and now they are making more than our medics," said Xie. 

Xie said the department lost a medic to the Austin Police Department over the weekend. 

"Because of better pay and because she can retire 10 years earlier," said Xie. 

Xie said the issue of overtime doubling is also eating at their workforce. 

While she doesn't expect future staffing shortages because of planned events, unplanned events have her on edge. 

"What I'm really concerned about is a wave of COVID or something else really knocking down our workforce, because we can't take that," said Xie. 

It will be a few years before this shortage is fully fixed.

KVUE on social media: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube

Daranesha Herron on social media: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram


'Cowboys for Trump' founder barred from public office for 'insurrectionary conduct' on Jan. 6

'She was desperate': Woman jumps out of moving car to escape kidnapper in Washington

Blue-collar workers say it's getting harder to live in Austin

Before You Leave, Check This Out