The Problem With Hiring EMTs & Paramedics To Detect Ebola At Some Airports

It has been reported in the past few days that the United States Customs & Border Protection (CBP) is working with San Antonio based Angel Staffing, a company that provides staffing services during disasters and public health crises to government agencies, to hire National Registry Certified Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT) and Paramedics (EMT-P) to help screen passengers arriving in the United States from high risk ports of origin for the Ebola virus.


These emergency medical technicians are expected to be staffed at New York’s JFK International Airport, New Jersey’s Newark Liberty International Airport, Washington Dulles, Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International and Chicago O’Hare.


Never mind that JFK Airport, the airport that serves as the primary gateway for these flights, only generally receives less than 200 passengers per day that would receive scrutiny upon arriving from these points of origin according to the CBP, or that offering EMTs and Paramedics US$19 and $29 per hour for these positions is insulting … there is a red tape situation that is likely to occur in this being implemented at JFK, Newark or Atlanta.


Government agencies, licensing and regulatory bodies rarely work hand in hand, and red tape can throw any plan off course which is likely to occur here.   As CBP and Angel Staffing have made it a requirement that all applicants be registered with the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NR-EMT/NR-EMT-P), the candidate pool becomes extremely slim in New York, New Jersey and Georgia … why?


Not all states recognize the National Registry or offer the National Registry, either at specific levels or all level of certification. Among those states that it would be problematic to find those certified as National Registry Certified are … you guessed it … New York, New Jersey and Georgia.


For now CBP is working with United States Coast Guard Corpsmen, who have completed their EMT-B training at the Health Services Technician ‘C’ School … although they are generally not National Registry Certified as most U.S. Military Corpsmen are not certified to operate as EMTs in the civilian environment.


Rather than testing individual passengers entering the United States, U.S. Customs & Border Protection should look into multiple person temperature screening channels, such as those used in Hong Kong and Taipei, that everyone passes through. The health screening channels can handle dozens of people simultaneously and identify those with an elevated temperature. These health channels with personnel who watch everyone walking through them are effective, reduce costs and do not impede the arrivals process.


Happy Flying!




  1. How do these multiple person temperature screening systems work? Do they just herd people through some hallway or passageway equipped with infrared scanners capable of detecting a person’s body temperature? How cleanly does it differentiate someone who’s been running vs. someone running a temperature?

  2. Okay so because of a couple states that don’t like national registry like New York (IMHO one of the most corrupt and backwards states in the country next to Illinois) because it would cut into ”fees” they collect from providers is reason to discount an nationally recognized certification process that requirement exceeds DOT curriculum requirements for EMT Basic, Intermediate and Paramedic levels.

    Well here is a wrench in the thought process you put out. Texas is a national registry state; where if you hold a National Registry (because National Registry Certification & Continuing Education standards are higher than state requirements) your state license is automatically granted. Then with that state license I can apply for reciprocity in NY, GA etc. I know this first hand because I have filed and been granted reciprocity in the states you listed along with a handful of others including LA, OK, AK, MS, AL and FL to name a few.

    Even with those scanners isn’t the best solution as when they were used in the past with H1N1 and SARS were not the most effective.

    Then hiring external contractors for temporary work (I don’t see this being a long-term process at ports of entry) is not the best solution because of the vetting and security clearance process timeline. Considering some of the issues / WCF during Katrina, Gustav/Ike and Sandy I’m Surprised (Don’t get me started) Angel Staffing event has a government contract at all.

    In reality the better solution that could be deployed on short notice would be using the DMAT (Disaster Medical Assistance Teams) which are under HHS and ASPR (Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and response). The personnel on these teams are already vetted and have clearances beyond that most of the providers hold National Registry certification already although not a major concern due to being federal employees. Once orders and activations are relayed DMAT teams and equipment can be on the move in a few hours to where they are needed and used to being adaptable to mission at hand. Typical deployments are 2 weeks before another team is sent in as relief but changes based on mission requirements.

    What do you find insulting about those pay rates? If you ask most EMS providers we don’t do it for the money. If it was all about the money most would go into nursing, or become a PA. The pay scale EMS providers make is a topic itself and a very continuous issue.

    For the most part even considering the locality the pay rates you list are more than most EMS providers make at their full time jobs and even those on the federal disaster teams where EMT and Paramedics are in the GS 5-9 step 1 range. Even as an experienced critical care paramedic I make just under $19 a hour as a base rate at my full time job let alone the $29. Even my higher paying part-time jobs don’t pay that well (even in Oil & Gas) except for working on well-funded commercial/productions sets as a set medic or as a flight medic.

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