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Southeast and EKCEP team up to boost number of paramedics within region

While the lifesaving skills of a paramedic are often a critical factor in a patients survival, the number of available paramedics locally is dwindling. Officials are now hoping the roster of paramedics in eastern Kentucky will soon be increased, thanks in part to a new, free training course that is scheduled for Southeast Kentucky Community amp; Technical Colleges (SKCTC) campuses in Harlan and Bell counties. The course is being funded by the Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program.

By providing free evening and weekend training classes, 40 emergency medical technicians (EMTs) will soon have the opportunity to become paramedics. There is a large shortage of paramedics in the area, not just in Harlan County, but in all of southeast Kentucky, said Harlan County Emergency Management Director David McGill. Most ambulance services will say that there is a great shortage of paramedics.

Henry Hughes, the workforce solutions project manager for SKCTC, said Harlan, Bell, Letcher, Knox and Whitley counties are especially underserved in terms of paramedics and local access to paramedic training. In some places in those counties, the nearest healthcare facility is more than a 45-minute drive. For those who complete the program, it will not be difficult to find jobs. he said. Every ambulance service around here needs paramedics.

Paramedics are generally the most highly-trained emergency medical responders, able to administer more drugs and perform more advanced medical procedures than an EMT. A paramedic can administer IVs, certain medication and can read EKG machines. They can also defibrillate with a heart monitor and put advanced airways in a patient. McGill stated. They provide a great benefit as far as getting people transferred to other hospitals and help with local needs as well.

The programs training, which is slated to begin in September, includes a 16-month, 1400-hour course, including clinical and ride time. It features lectures and laboratory work, practicum at a local hospital and at other medical facilities and field work with area ambulance services.

The class and all materials are to be provided free of charge, and the classes are held on a flexible schedule of weekends in order to be accommodating to students. To qualify for the course, students must already be certified EMTs and have appropriate endorsements.