On a recent morning, Jerrad Dinsmore and Kevin LeCaptain of Waldoboro EMS in rural Maine drove their ambulance to a secluded house near the ocean, to measure the clotting levels of a woman in her 90s.
They told the woman, bundled under blankets to keep warm, they would contact her doctor with the result.
“Is there anything else we can do?” Dinsmore asked.
“No,” she said. “I’m all set.”
This wellness check, which took about 10 minutes, is one of the duties Dinsmore and LeCaptain perform in addition to the emergency calls they respond to as staffers with Waldoboro Emergency Medical Service.
EMS crews have been busier than ever this year, as people who delayed getting care during the COVID-19 pandemic have grown progressively sicker.
But there’s limited workforce to meet the demand. Both nationally and in Maine, staffing issues have plagued the EMS system for years. It’s intense work that takes a lot of training and offers low pay. The requirement in Maine and elsewhere that paramedics and emergency medical technicians be vaccinated against COVID-19 is another stress on the workforce.
Dinsmore and LeCaptain spend more than 20 hours a week working for Waldoboro on top of their full-time EMS jobs in other towns. It’s common in Maine for EMS staffers to work for multiple departments, because most EMS crews need the help — and Waldoboro may soon need even more of it.
The department has already lost one EMS worker who quit because of Maine’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for health care workers, and may lose two more.
The stress of filling those vacancies keeps Town Manager Julie Keizer awake at night.