The Morristown Fire Department and the Morristown-Hamblen Emergency Medical Service now have a memorandum of understanding that addresses extremely rare medical calls on which the MFD has paramedics available and EMS does not, officials say.

In those instances, the MFD paramedic will be the lead caregiver under EMS protocols, and EMS will bill the patient for a basic life-support ambulance call instead of an advanced life-support ambulance call, which requires that a paramedic provide treatment, according to Morristown-Hamblen EMS Director Danny Housewright, who drafted the memorandum of understanding.

The MFD has two paramedics, which are assigned to different fire stations and are scheduled for different shifts to maximize capabilities, according to Morristown Fire Chief Bill Honeycutt. Honeycutt and Housewright say there is a regional and national shortage of paramedics, so the will to hire a paramedic is not the same as the ability to employ.

“The problem is all over,” Housewright said. “Nobody is going into EMS. The class sizes are down. It’s scary.”

Clark Taylor, deputy fire chief, says the fire department has had paramedics for six years and runs approximately 300 medical calls a month with EMS. In more than 21,000 joint medical calls, only two times has the MFD had a paramedic available when EMS did not, according to Taylor.

In those cases, Taylor said, the MFD paramedic was the lead caregiver, even though city government didn’t have written protocols to address the situations. Honeycutt briefed Morristown City Council members about the cooperative memorandum of understanding on Tuesday.

“EMS does an excellent job of maintaining a superior level of service,” Taylor said. “I don’t know of any two agencies in the state that get along better. The Morristown Fire Department and EMS have a good working relationship.”

Housewright says he’s limiting the chances that the EMS will not have a paramedic available on an ambulance through assignment scheduling. If he has a BLS ambulance – one without a paramedic – on the road, that ambulance can handle transportation runs to from hospitals and convalescent-care facilities, which are numerous, according to Housewright.