EMS staffing shortage affecting emergency service response times in Starr County

2 months 1 week 1 day ago Thursday, September 28 2023 Sep 28, 2023 September 28, 2023 10:53 PM September 28, 2023 in News - Local

When time is of the essence, waiting for an ambulance during an emergency can be scary for many people.

Rebecca Martinez experienced the fear first hand.

Martinez's daughter was ejected from a vehicle in a car crash in Rio Grande City last week. 

It took about an hour and a half to get her to a hospital.

“She had a ruptured spleen, liver and her stomach perforated,” Martinez recalled. “She had all her contents in her stomach.”

Starr County Memorial Hospital — the sole EMS service provider in Starr County — told Channel 5 News no units were available at the time of the crash.

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All four units in service were on emergency calls at the time of the crash. First responders at the scene called off the ambulance about 20 minutes after the initial 911 call because the first available ambulance would take an additional 35 minutes to get to the crash scene. 

A medical helicopter was called.

Hospital chairman Dr. Jose Vazquez says they don't have enough EMS staff to operate ambulances.

“It’s been extremely difficult for us to continue recruiting or to keep our employees,” Vasquez said, adding that the hospital has 32 EMS employees. That amount is only enough to staff five of their nine ambulances.

Vazquez says many personnel are leaving to become registered nurses.

The growing population in Starr County is adding to the problem, Vasquez added.

Back in 1985 when the hospital first started providing EMS services, the population in Starr County was only 35,000. The population has since doubled.

“We believe that we are not capable of continue providing the services in the way the Starr County community deserves,” Vasquez said. “That's why we are looking at possibilities and alternatives.”

Alternatives include having the cities in Starr County take over EMS services, or the creation of an emergency service district.

“Rather than be a part of the problem, we want to be a part of the solution,” Vasquez said.

The hospital plans to have several meetings to discuss the options with Starr County leaders.

Watch the video above for the full story. 

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