The Belize Emergency Response Team (BERT) has faced many challenges recently, primarily in the financial arena and human resources. Some months ago the organization was losing several of their Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) to the tourism industry and the public health facilities. It was a phenomenon that forced BERT’s management to undertake a recruitment, of sorts, as explained by Andre Carrillo who recently took over the management of the organization.
“One of the things that we did to counter the loss of employees was to run additional EMT courses. As you know BERT is also a training center and so we are able to train EMTs to get them licensed as well and so we ran a few classes. That phenomenon when we had lost employees was a result of the different regional hospitals and government as well hiring as well as the tour companies so the running of the class allows us to create that supply of labor to be able to fill the gaps so we can announce now, yes we have been able to build back to that golden number of 18 EMTs who support the Belize district as well as the air support. We had to adjust the salaries to meet the pay scale of the government as well as the pay scale that the tour companies were offering. The pay scale that we have now in place doesn’t match the starting salaries at the government institutions but to also confront that challenge the labor supply of EMTs is very low. It’s a very challenging position and it’s not made for everyone. It’s not made for the faint of heart. You have to have a dedication and a love for it so there is a really small supply of people who enjoy and have a passion for this type of job. So what we need to continue to do is run class to ensure that we continue to build the labor supply so that the tourism industry, the government of Belize, BERT, we shouldn’t be in competition with one another to try to hire. There should be a healthy labor supply for everyone to try to meet the emergency needs of the company and that’s what we are doing in terms of running the EMT courses.”
With their staffing back to normal now, Carrillo says that there is an appeal he would like to make to the public particularly when the EMTs respond to emergency calls.
“One of the first things the EMT learns in EMT class is to assess the scene itself with respect to scene safety so they must assess. They must conduct a triage and also assess the scene for safety. When there’s an act of violence that we respond to, we work in coordination with the police. WE do not respond, if the EMTs feel like their life is in danger and the police is not around, they will not assist. We work in conjunction with the police. For the most part, the call comes from the police department so they are always there and if they are not there, they are probably on the way. We work in coordination with the police department and also the different city council for road traffic accidents.”
“Have you all faced any kind of difficulties from the public when responding to certain calls?”
“Yes, unfortunately the peak of that you can see during the September celebrations. We have a lot of big party goers drinking; there are a lot of party goers during that time. Unfortunately last year we had incidents where the public stoned glass bottles at the ambulances when we were passing. We are out there to save lives. It’s uncalled for and we would like to raise this issue with the public. We’re there to save people’s lives and you never know when it is going to be your turn.”
BERT opened its doors on August 1, 1998.