Excerpts from the ForestParkReview.com:

Forest Park Fire Chief Phil Chiappetta said Metro Ambulance Service, the village’s third-party provider, is supposed to provide six paramedics to staff the village’s ambulance in three two-person shifts throughout the day. But for the last several months at least, no more than three contract paramedics have been available and that, until recently, that number was only two.

The shortfall means that Forest Park firefighters, all but one of whom are cross-trained and certified firefighter/paramedics, have been working overtime shifts to cover the gaps. Chiappetta said finding volunteers to work those shifts has, thankfully, not been a problem, but that the lingering effects of what he described as a statewide shortage have led him to approach village hall about ending the contract with Metro Paramedics when it expires in April 2023 and converting the village’s ambulance staff to full-time fire department employees.

Metro Paramedics said paramedics are in short supply nationwide and that one part of a more complex web of issues is that base pay for contract paramedics is extremely low, something that is causing people to leave the business and dramatically shrinking the pool of students who are now attending and completing paramedic certification programs. Metro has been trying to raise pay for years, something prompted by incremental increases in the minimum wage in Illinois, which is now $12 per hour. They have lost clients in other municipalities as Metro has raised prices to try and subsidize wage increases, but that right now companies like his have few other options.

Because Metro has been unable to fulfill its end of the contract with the village, Forest Park taxpayers are not shelling out any additional tax dollars to make up for the shortage. Any overtime hours paid to Forest Park firefighters are deducted from the amount the village pays Metro, so for now the financial implications in the village are minimal. That’s not the case, of course, for Metro.

Chiappetta is hopeful for the prospect of bringing the paramedic service in-house, something that is buoyed by an effort from former chief Steve Glinke to cross-train staff to serve in both roles.