GREENVILLE – Spirit EMS welcomed three Australian Paramedics to its workforce, the second EMS organization in the United States to undertake this relatively new work visa program.
Spirit EMS President/CEO Brian K. Hathaway introduced Karl Kleinekathoefer, Phoenix Waters, and Hugh Walton in a Friday morning press conference at the Spirit EMS John & Iris Hathaway Community & Education Center located at 5464 State Route 49 South, Greenville just south of the Spirit EMS headquarters.
“It’s very exciting,” said Kleinekathoefer. “We take it one step at a time. I think it’s great for Spirit Medical, a big step for them and a big step for us.”
“When opportunities like this come up I thought it was a great incentive to take and I took it,” Kleinekathoefer continued. “We’re having to put a little bit of trust in Spirit Medical, the same them in us as well. It is a big step.”
“Since COVID Spirit has struggled to have a sufficient number of paramedics to meet our daily needs,” Hathaway stated. “When COVID happened there were a fewer number of classes that were able to be had, EMT classes, paramedic classes were not able to take place because of that nasty word of COVID.”
Spirit EMS has more than 130 agencies, facilities, and hospitals on a waiting list requesting their services, but they do not have the employees required to fill the need so they began looking elsewhere for answers to maintain service to their existing client base.
To overcome the workforce shortage, Spirit EMS has partnered with an Australian EMS recruiting firm to bring paramedics halfway around the world to rural Greenville, Ohio.
Medicare and Medicaid set reimbursement rates; therefore, ambulance providers cannot raise their fees to keep up with the cost of inflation.
Private family-owned ambulance businesses are becoming extinct because it is increasingly difficult to compete with municipal and hospital benefits being offered to paramedics.
The advantage of bringing paramedics to America on a work Visa, municipalities and hospitals cannot entice the employees hired through the work Visa.
More paramedics are graduating from classes in Australia than paramedic jobs available. Australian paramedics are eager to get the experience they set out for when they obtained their bachelor’s degree in paramedicine.
Despite having all the training in Australia, they still have to meet and pass all national and state EMS training requirements in the United States before caring for patients.
“It has been quite a journey,” said Spirit Medical Operations Manager, Brian Brown. “It started a couple of years ago going to EMS World and hearing a gentleman speak from England and hearing their experience. They went to Australia and were able to take 50 paramedics back. I thought if they can do it, why can’t we do it so we started down that journey.”
To date, Spirit EMS has three Australian paramedics working with an additional three expected to arrive in February 2024.
“Some of them are on board to bring their families with them which is very exciting,” Hathaway noted. “It’s going to be a boost not only to the local economy but the community.”
“We are very excited about the opportunity to have this new program be the second ambulance service in the entire nation to do this,” Hathaway added. “I owe it to the management team and everyone from Eric in Australia and his team that has worked with us to make this happen to everyone at Spirit that has made it happen to our three new Australian recruits, Karl, Hugh, and Phoenix who have made the journey halfway around the world because it’s a big commitment in them as well.”