Louisville Metro EMS has been getting a lot of press lately, and not much of it is good. Today WLKY.com (http://www.wlky.com/news/29443293/detail.html) released a story about two EMS workers who are going public with complaints of being overworked. One EMT has been suspended and the paramedic has a written reprimand for requesting to leave (during an mandatory hold) because she felt tired.
I have already stated my views on sleep deprivation on a 24 hour shift. Louisville Metro EMS has been on 12 hour shifts for years, along with the mandatory 4 hour hold. There are few clinical personnel who escape being held up to 16 hours every shift. Lets do some math. There are 24 hours in a day. I work my regular 12 hours, then get held over for four hours. 12+4= 16. I am at work for 16 hours minimum, then I have only 8 hours (assuming I get to clock out at the end of the 16th hour) to get home, eat, sleep, wake up, and get ready for work the next day.
According to the International Fire Chiefs Association report “The effects of sleep deprivation on fire fighters and EMS responders” June 2007, the average adult requires six to ten hours of sleep.
Does anyone truly believe these EMS employees are getting six hours of sleep between shifts? I seriously doubt they are. Add on more mandatory overtime, including extra days that get stretched to 16, 18 or even 20 hours (yes, I have seen this personally crews getting held over to 20 hours) and there is no big surprise that the people are going to make mistakes because of sleep deprivation.
The only real surprise here is that no one at Louisville Metro EMS is trying to solve the problem. Mandatory holds have been in effect since the service merged from two EMS agencies to one.
I think the EMS industry needs to take a hard look at sleep deprivation. Uncomfortable and unpopular choices need to be made to keep our EMTs, Paramedics and patients safe.