BEAUMONT, Texas — Members of Beaumont Professional Firefighters Local 399, an area police and firefighters union, believe Beaumont is facing a crisis.
In the last eight months, almost 1,500 medical calls were delayed, according to the City of Beaumont. Despite the delays, none of the calls have gone unanswered.
Members of the union believe a shortage of workers is leading to longer response times from ambulances.
City officials believe hiring more workers is easier said than done. One issue most agree on is that the city does not have enough workers.
Beaumont has a budget for nine ambulances, but only five to six operate on average. Like some other fire departments across the country, Beaumont Fire Department Chief Earl White said his department is short on medics.
In light of the questions about response times, Chief White wants citizens to know no call goes unanswered.
"What I want to ensure to the public is every call is answered," Chief White said. “Sometimes, we may not have enough resources. There may be a delay in service, but we are going to make sure we answer every call.”
Despite the issue, Chief White feels supported by the city.
“City leaders have been responsive to our resource demands,” Chief White said. “However, we're in a tough situation trying to hire personnel, retain personnel, the equipment also. But, we're meeting the challenge."
The issue has emerged as a focus in the mayoral race. The Beaumont Professional Firefighters Local 399 recently endorsed Mayoral Candidate Roy West.
“We've got to solve this problem,” West said. “It's a public health crisis for the citizens of Beaumont."
West and union leaders believe current city leaders are not doing enough to fix the issue.
“My understanding is that you can hire people right out of high school and have them take the test, and if they pass, then you can train them to be firefighters and paramedics,” West said. “Whereas right now, they have to be already certified in order to sit for the test."
Mayor Robin Mouton was out of town at a conference Monday. She sent a statement to 12News saying, "City council has been responsive to the needs and concerns of the unions."
Mayor Mouton said the council recently approved a police contract focused on retention and recruitment.
The Beaumont mayor acknowledged the shortage of EMS workers saying, “There is a shortage of qualified and willing applicants." She does not feel the issue is one Beaumont faces alone.
Mayoral Candidate James Eller jr. was not available to comment in time for the publication of this article.
Chief White said his department will continue to do its best with what they have.
“It is not going to affect the service we provide, to the citizens," Chief White said. "We're up against the wall, but we're not complaining about what we're doing. We're trying to find solutions."
The City of Beaumont is taking application for EMS workers and firefighters.
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