By: Sarah Snyder
They're the ones you call in an emergency, but right now in Seminole it's the EMS team that's hurting.
A lack of paramedics is causing long hours and headaches for the people that protect their community.
"EMS is really close to everybody here," Seminole EMT Annette Molton, said. "It is such a small community. Everyone does know each other. We all know the patients we pick up. It does make it a lot easier when you know your patients. You can relate to them a lot better."
But it's an organization that's feeling the pain of the changing economy.
"We've had a shift of our paramedics leaving the small community moving into the larger communities," Seminole EMS Director Bryan Taylor, said.
Annette Molton has been volunteering with the Seminole emergency crew, but when the EMT shortage started to hurt, she signed on full-time.
"We're all working way more than we should be," Molton said. "We're all working 24 hour shifts, so we're up all night. We're working way more than we should be."
Better pay and shorter shifts are luring medical responders from Seminole to bigger cities.
"In our staffing plan in the past, we furnished two paramedics on each truck," Taylor said. "We have now gone to one paramedic per truck."
And while they're working with less staff, they're taking in more medical calls than ever, up 73 percent in ten years.
"There's been a lot of trauma, car wrecks, stuff like that," Molton said. "We also have to do transfers to Lubbock since this is such a small hospital."
Not only are they losing paramedics, but they're losing medical volunteers.
"Over the last several years, those numbers have dropped significantly," Taylor said. "The education requirements for EMS and the continuing education requirements for EMS have caused us to see a decrease in numbers."
But even while staff is dropping, they say if you get hurt, they'll get there just as quickly.
"The greatest impact right now has been on transfers from our hospital to other hospitals," Taylor noted. "Occasionally, we've had a delay in that or we've had to resort to requesting an aeromedical service to come in to actually do the transfer."
Several EMT's from other towns are lending a hand.
"Some of the neighboring medical services that have paramedics off duty, they will come and work part time for us just filling the gap," Taylor said. "It's not something that's going to be a long-term solution, but for the short-term, they're giving us a hand on that."
"I love it," Molton said. "I like helping people. I like seeing people at their worst and being able to make them better."
Not only is the Seminole EMS working with city and county agencies to help bring in some part time employees, but they're also partnering with local colleges in hopes of finding new recruits to help fill the void.