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Pittsburgh To Bring On New EMTs, Raise Starting Pay For Paramedics

The City of Pittsburgh will hire EMTs for the first time since 2004 and raise the starting pay for paramedics.  

The city and paramedics union announced sidebar agreements to the existing union contract Monday. Pittsburgh hasn’t had dedicated EMTs since 2004, when they were laid off due to budget constraints, said Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich. Instead, they city has relied on paramedics, who undergo more training, but cost the city more per hour.

Many of the challenges facing emergency medical responders are due to the fact that Pittsburgh’s population is aging – both its residents and public safety workers.

Hissrich said the result is two-pronged.

Demand for ambulances is increasing, he said. The department received about 60,000 calls for emergency medical response last year.

“There have been instances where we’ve had to bring neighboring EMS services into the City of Pittsburgh to handle calls and we want to cut that down,” Hissrich said. “We want the response times to decrease and we want the quality of care to maintain the same.”

Aging paramedics are also experiencing more on-the-job injuries. According to the mayor's office, 40 percent of the city's EMS workers are more than 50 years old. 

Hissrich said recruiting new paramedics is extremely challenging because of the educational and physical requirements.

He said in an effort to be competitive with suburban services recruiting the same paramedic candidates, starting pay for paramedics will be increased from $15.05 to $17.93 per hour.

As a result of increased demand, many emergency medical service personnel, EMS, are facing forced overtime. To help reduce that, 20 new EMTs will be hired.

“They’ll be eligible for tuition reimbursements that a lot of the other city employees are, that they can work as an EMT during the day and take night time classes and potentially become a paramedic and move into the paramedic role,” said Hissrich.

EMTs will be offered a starting pay of $15 per hour. 

Virginia reports on identity and justice for 90.5 WESA. That means looking at how people see themselves in the community, and how the community makes them feel. Her reporting examines things like race, policing, and housing to tell the stories of folks we often don't hear from.