About 3,000 emergency medical personnel are participating in this year's conference for continuing education, certification and expositions. One of the foremost topics is legislative changes that are going into effect. State of Texas EMS Director Maxie Bishop says private ambulance companies often transport patients by stretcher in non-medical vehicles. So the legislature passed a law requiring that any patient on a stretcher or gurney must be transported in a licensed ambulance.
"Before they were maybe like a taxi ride say with a stretcher, there was no medical personnel on them necessarily and they weren't required to and they weren't regulated by anybody. Now the legislature felt that it was important that these people who are transporting patients and they have to have a stretcher, that they be transported by a department-authorized vehicle."
That law will affect places like dialysis centers, where patients are frequently transported back and forth for treatment. Each company has to apply for a license, pay a fee, meet a number of requirements and undergo site inspections. Another change is all ambulances in the state are now required to carry what's known as an auto-injector epi-pen to treat people having allergic reactions. Houston Fire Department Capt. David Almaguer says another priority topic is the ongoing manpower shortage.
"We select from the applicants the people that want to become paramedics and currently our school is filled for the rest of the year, but as far as getting people who want to be emergency medical technicians who want to get out there and be those providers of care, yes we are still looking for people to apply to the Houston Fire Department."
HFD does operate with a shortage of paramedics, but State Director Bishop says the problem is worse in rural parts of Texas.
"There is a shortage of EMS personnel in the state of Texas. Typically your fire-based systems don't have the shortage that some of your rural and frontier areas have. That's something we really have to address because there's just not a lot of people who are moving back to rural areas and frontier areas and those kids when they get old enough they move away from there and they don't go back. So there is a shortage, particularly in rural and frontier Texas."
Bishop says they're trying to recruit paramedics to rural parts of the state through incentive programs and community education. Laurie Johnson, Houston Public Radio News.