Texas Legislature steps in to help with EMS shortage

“There’s always been some type of shortage, but not one that we’ve seen this dramatic.”

SAN ANTONIO – Emergency medical services are facing staffing shortages across the country and in South Texas.

Problems existing before the pandemic were only amplified by COVID-19.

After six years as a combat medic for the Army, Angie Kenai decided to take her medical knowledge to the streets as an EMT for Acadian Ambulance.

“You’re there for that person in their worst moment, and you got to do the best you can for them,” Kenai said.

Last year, Acadian launched an accelerated program to get more EMTs and paramedics into the workforce. That’s how Kenai got here.

Kristine Koerner, a recruiter for Acadian, says there’s still a shortage.

“Not just at Acadian, but nationally, EMS has taken such a hit. The last thing we want is for someone to call 911 and no one be able to show up,” Koerner said.

Right now Koerner says they have 14 paramedic openings, which keeps 14 of the Advance Life Support trucks out of service.

The Texas Legislature set aside $21.7 million for EMS education and retention as a part of Senate Bill 8 to help with the shortage.

“That funding allows individuals to come in the door that may not have that opportunity elsewhere,” Koerner said.

The Texas Department of State Health Services created the EMS education scholarship fund with that funding.

It’ll cover the cost of getting their EMT, advanced EMT, or paramedic certification.

“The only thing that the state requires back from them is 96 hours of their time a month for one year,” Koerner said.

There’s also priority given to people working in rural counties and underserved areas of our state.

Koerner hopes this will allow them to make up some of the lost workforces and keep serving people facing emergencies.

“Really putting it to use to grow individuals internally to make sure that when you call 911, someone’s going to show up at your door,” Koerner said.

The qualification process is open to anyone 18 years and older with a high school diploma or GED.

To sign up for the program with Acadian Ambulance, email kristine.koerner@acadian.com by the beginning of February. Registration officially closes by February 20th, orientation is February 22 and the class begins on February 27th.

You can also sign up with the National EMS Academy.

About the Authors

Leigh Waldman is an investigative reporter at KSAT 12. She joined the station in 2021. Leigh comes to San Antonio from the Midwest after spending time at a station in Omaha, NE. After two winters there, she knew it was time to come home to Texas. When Leigh is not at work, she enjoys eating, playing with her dogs and spending time with family.

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