Mercy Flight faces staffing, pay rates challenge | Local News
BATAVIA — As the 2021-22 fiscal year approaches, Mercy Flight’s big challenge is staffing, manpower and competitive pay rates, an agency official told the Genesee County Human Services Committee Monday.
Michael Gugliuzza, director of medical operations gave a departmental report at the committee meeting.
“It’s a very tough market right now, between a lot of job openings being not applied for … and we’re competing with other industries outside EMS. We’re seeing great shifts in pay rates and those kinds of things,” he said. “We’re working very hard to take the whole EMS market and really make it into more of a career-oriented field, as opposed to just a temporary job that somebody gets before they go on to the next step in life. We’re looking to move that forward and kind of champion that.”
Gugliuzza said if reimbursements from Mercy Flight’s largest payors — Medicare and Medicaid — stay stagnant, stress on the EMS system in general “could reach a breaking point.”
“We’re looking to work with our payors to try to help, where we can, to increase rates. Many of the fee schedules haven’t been adjusted in years,” he said. “It really becomes detrimental to, not just our agency, but to EMS as a whole, and, I’m sure, all of our agencies … that rely on the insurance industry to supplement their income.”
Gugliuzza said Mercy Flight hopes legislators and municipal leaders will continue to support first responders and, as a result, the safety and welfare of their constituents.
“We see that being a very worthwhile endeavor,” he said.
Legislature Chairwoman Rochelle Stein said she was reading the challenges Mercy Flight has in recruiting people into the agency as a career path.
“What would be, in your mind, a great way to introduce our youth into the EMT career path?” she asked.
“I think the best thing is trying to capture them when they start to do the career days,” Gugliuzza said, adding EMS would have a chance to come in and talk, and let younger folks know about the career path — what’s available, what they can do, how that can play out for them.”
“We’ve seen, in the past few years, a decline in the people interested in getting into it at the EMT basic level,” he said. “In past years, that’s been a pretty robust portion of the overall job function.”
Stein asked if Mercy EMS has been invited in the past to participate in the GLOW With Your Hands event that was first held in 2019. The summer event was started to give students from across the region a career exploration opportunity and put them in touch with employers.
“I’ll have to check. I’m not aware if we have or have not been. I can say it we have been, we would make every effort to be part of that,” Gugliuzza said.
Stein recommended that Gugliuzza reach out to Karyn Winters, director of the Genesee County Business Education Alliance (BEA).
The 2019-20 fiscal year presented Mercy Flight with challenges due to the pandemic, Gugliuzza said.
“Over the last year we’ve had an increase in costs for PPE and decontamination for our equipment of a little over $115,000,” he said. Gugliuzza said there has been a decrease in revenue of about $400,000 due to a drop in demand in ground ambulance transport and lost revenue from EMS standby service at Darien Lake.
“There’s decreasing revenue based on no events going on at Darien Lake and other places …” he said.
Mercy Flight received funds from the CARES Act PPP Loan Program and Division of Homeland Security & Emergency Services (DHSES( Provider Stimulus funds have helped it overcome that lost revenue. Gugliuzza said the county Office of Emergency Management, OEM Coordinator Tim Yaeger and Deputy Coordinator Bill Schutt have worked well with Mercy Flight.
“They’ve been great partners through all of this to help with PPE…