MISSING THE CALL: New TRAA executive director has solutions for the paramedic shortage

Published: Oct. 19, 2021 at 3:56 PM EDT
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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Fort Wayne’s NBC) - New TRAA Executive Director Joel Benz has gone from driving the ambulance as a paramedic to driving the change for the paramedic shortage.

“I worked for TRAA on the contractor side for about 19 years as a paramedic,” Benz said. “The folks that are out there are working pretty hard.”

Benz says in the last year he’s felt the effects of the paramedic shortage first hand.

Joel Benz
Joel Benz(Fort Wayne's NBC)

“I knew it was unsustainable, you can’t work your people that hard and not have something change,” he said.

Benz said he was fed up, and decided to turn in his paramedic gear to become the appointed TRAA executive director.

“I was just a medic on the street, and we were just doing our job,” Benz said. “It was a little frustrating that there wasn’t scrutiny sooner in my viewpoint.”

He says he wants to focus on hiring part time paramedics, getting response times down, and increasing transparency.

“I felt like someone who had a fresh set of eyes, somebody who could hold folks accountable was needed in here,” he said. “I’m a very transparent person, I believe when you do that it establishes trust. I want to provide updates to the community.”

Benz provided Fort Wayne’s NBC reporter Karli VanCleave with new numbers on the problem.

TRAA level zero calls
TRAA level zero calls(Fort Wayne's NBC)

Over a year’s time, from the beginning of July last year until July this year, TRAA had to defer calls 813 times.

This is called a ‘TRAA Level Zero’ and they have to call for help from the Fort Wayne Fire Department or county EMS crews.

New data obtained shows calls were deferred 424 times from August 1st of this year until October 17th.

Fort Wayne’s NBC reporter Karli VanCleave asked, “In your position going forward, who are you going to hold accountable?”

Benz said, “The contractor has a responsibility to make those times. They’ve been non-compliant for more than a year now. I’m looking to see what their progress is.”

Benz and the TRAA board have to hold the contractor - Paramedics Logistics - accountable for getting to calls within 8 and a half minutes.

In September, they only met that 70.43 percent of the time.

Who is to blame for the problem?

“The board is responsible and the executive director is supposed to make sure people know what’s going on, as well as, the board and the mayor,” he said.

Benz says he intends to apply his authority to ensure accountability on the part of the contractor and plans to work closely with other stakeholders to achieve the desired goals.

“I think the folks of Fort Wayne should know there’s a lot of things that play into this,” Benz said. “We are doing our best to find a way to make sure when you call the ambulance somebody shows up in a timely manner.”

Benz says he plans to go before city council with his game plan sometime soon.

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