GREAT FALLS — May 16-22 is National EMS Week. Despite the challenges the pandemic has created, Great Falls Emergency Services paramedic Amber Malave’s commitment to being a paramedic never wavered.
"I would say more challenging for the patients that are acutely sick because it takes us longer to get in there, and then challenging in the sense that we have more that we have to be careful about,” Malave said.
She continued, "I've always known I wanted to be in healthcare. I think (the pandemic) has made me want to take care of people more and make sure that people are okay.”
GFES EMT Katelyn Throckmorton said the struggle for her has been awareness: "Just being aware that I've been in contact with these people that have this really awful thing, especially prior to any vaccines, and going home and trying to just keep my house clean and my fiancée clean.”
The recognition that National EMS Week provides is cool, she said, but not something she thinks about. "I just kind of show up, do my job,” said Throckmorton.
Aside from the challenges of the pandemic, the EMS industry also continues to struggle with reimbursement for services.
"That's an issue we're constantly talking with Medicare, with CMS, with Congress, with our state governments about,” said GFES manager Justin Grohs.
Grohs said the reimbursement structure is outdated, as it's really just to help cover the cost of transporting patients. "Thirty percent of the time we're dispatched to an incident no transport takes place because the issue's handled on scene. It's handled at their home, they're lined up with the proper resources and their needs are addressed. A lot of our payers have no structure to reimburse any of that,” Grohs explained.
Compounding the problem, the cost of providing services goes up every year.
"We have to stay on our toes, be creative, and do our best to make it all happen,” said Grohs.