SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt.—Vermont officials hope a grant to train and equip paramedics -- and changes to a state law announced Friday -- will draw more emergency medical workers to ambulance crews.
First responders in Colchester, Essex and South Burlington have been awarded a $600,000 grant, $500,000 of it from Federal Emergency Management Agency and $70,000 from the state Legislature, to provide training and equipment so that each squad has 24-hour paramedic coverage.
The grant will also help to set up a statewide training program in collaboration with Vermont Technical College and the University of Vermont's Initiative for Rural Emergency Medical Service.
The three Chittenden County towns currently have well-trained intermediate-level EMTs, said Dr. Steve Leffler, medical director for Fletcher Allen Health Care's emergency department and IREMS, which will be training the paramedics.
"So for most patients they pick up, you wouldn't notice a difference. But for certain life-threatening problems, for certain painful conditions, paramedics have advanced training so they can do other things," he said.
For one, they can administer pain medication, said South Burlington Fire Chief Douglas Brent.
"Somebody who's got a half-hour ride in from Essex or Jericho and they've got a broken leg, they're going to be in a lot of pain by the time they get to the hospital. It's a huge difference," he said of the addition of paramedics.
The Legislature also has eased the certification requirements for EMTs, who will no longer have to take a test every two years, instead participating in continuing education, like other medical professions do and many other states now require of EMTs.
The changes also allows military medics who are nationally certified to become certified in Vermont and nurses and physician's assistants to become emergency medical service providers without having to take a yearlong class.
"As with many other organizations around Vermont and across America, it's becoming more and more difficult to attract and retain volunteers for civic organizations, and so, through a series of actions in this legislation, we believe that there will be more volunteers, more active participants in our emergency medical service community," said Illuzzi, R-Essex-Orleans.