HANAHAN, S.C. (WCBD) – The inaugural Blessing of the Fleet ceremony was held Sunday to recognize local EMS workers. The event was also an opportunity to highlight the staffing shortage that is currently plaguing many EMS agencies. 

“EMTs, paramedics and all our first responders,” MedTrust Chaplain James McAlister said. “Thank you for your sacrifices and service. Thank you for your hard work and training and preparing.”

McAlister offered his blessing and praised EMS workers for their life-saving work. “Father, thank you for the courageous men and women who have chosen such difficult and dangerous jobs,” he said.

Lowcountry mobile healthcare provider, MedTrust, hosted the event to unite local EMS agencies.

“We really are the medicine in the streets or the medicine in the buildings,” MedTrust founder Josh Watts said. “It’s not just about picking a patient up, it’s really about the clinical care that happens. And it’s an unbelievably committed group of people.”

Workers were grateful for the recognition, especially since they’ve been stretched thin due to staff shortages.

“Most of us working in the department are working 96 hours straight,” Hanahan firefighter and EMT Clyde Holmes said. “Going from the firetruck to the ambulance and back and forth. So, it’s definitely hard.”

Agencies say much of the strain is due to COVID.

“Over the last 18 months,” Watts said. “The education system of producing new EMTs and paramedics was challenged because they couldn’t get clinical time to finish up their schooling.”

Now, these first responders hope, between COVID cases dropping, and their new blessing, things could soon get back to normal.

“A lot of times EMS is kind of the red-headed stepchild of the emergency responders,” Holmes said. “So in a lot of cases, we don’t get quite as acknowledged as most would. So, it definitely feels good.”