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EMT's Can Now Work At L.A. Nursing Homes, Helping Fill Staff Shortages

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The following article was originally published May 4, 2020, and republished through a collaboration with KPCC and LAist.

Story by Jackie Fortiér

Paramedics and emergency medical technicians (EMT's) have temporary permission to work in L.A. County nursing homes to help alleviate staffing shortfalls due to COVID-19 outbreaks.

Nearly 2,000 health care workers and first responders have contracted COVID-19, most of them through their jobs, according to county health officials.

Some nursing homes have faced staffing shortages as their workers test positive or fear coming to work.

Dr. Marianne Gauche-Hill is the medical director for L.A County's Emergency Medical Services, the agency that made the temporary rule change. She said the EMT's and paramedics will temporarily be able to administer drugs like inhalers and intravenous medications under the supervision of a nurse or doctor.

Bixby Knolls Towers in Long Beach is among the skilled nursing homes identified by the California Dept. of Health as having confirmed COVID-19 cases among both staff and residents. | Megan Garvey/LAist
Bixby Knolls Towers in Long Beach is among the skilled nursing homes identified by the California Dept. of Health as having confirmed COVID-19 cases among both staff and residents. | Megan Garvey/LAist

"A number of these EMT's are furloughed and can't get a position right now, so this creates a unique opportunity for us to leverage that workforce to help out in COVID-related response," she said.

Currently, the California National Guard is plugging staffing holes at five nursing homes in L.A. County, but Gauche-Hill doesn't expect that to last.

"Ultimately, we have to be able to meet our own need locally, so that's why I thought it was a good idea to go ahead and expand the potential of our workforce," she said.

About 2,000 EMT's and paramedics will be connected with area employers, including nursing homes.

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