New Orleans EMS hopes new ambulance fleet will help boost staffing above current 67 percent

Twelve new ambulances will arrive before Mardi Gras, 20 more by end of year
Published: Feb. 7, 2023 at 10:47 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell joined public safety and city leaders Tuesday (Feb. 7) to unveil new ambulances ahead of Mardi Gras. But are there enough hands behind the wheels?

New Orleans EMS faces a 33 percent staffing shortage, which is an improvement from being 40 percent understaffed last February.

“We do have more people looking to inquire into opportunities with us, which is good. We want to see that,” said Chief Bill Salmeron.

Like other city agencies, EMS has had difficulties finding adequate staff. Salmeron said he hopes several efforts over the past year, including pay raises and retention bonuses, helps show potential candidates that the agency is serious about hiring.

The fact that emergency medical technicians require certification adds another layer of difficulty.

“Our future is going to be where we do hire untrained folks and train them in-house, so that’s our goal,” Salmeron said. “It might not be something for this year, but it’s a goal we’re looking on possibly for next year.”

With Mardi Gras fast approaching, though, Salmeron said the city is in a good position to handle both parades and normal 911 operations.

“Everybody we have on staff has to come to work during that time, just like police and fire and other public safety (personnel),” he said. “We also have mutual aid coming in from other services, as well. I know East Baton Rouge EMS, Tulane University EMS.”

New Orleans EMS also has been operating a surge contract with Acadian Ambulance to boost the number of available ambulances by anywhere from five to 10.

As the city aims to replace its aging fleet, New Orleans EMS is slated to receive 12 new vehicles and 20 more new ambulances by the end of the year.

Salmeron said New Orleans needs about 21 ambulances per day to handle its volume of 911 calls.

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