Relief on the way for area medics

by Brad Buck
The Palatka Daily News

EAST PALATKA - Jason Liska already is using his new skills as a paramedic.
Stationed in East Palatka at Rescue 4, Liska knows how to differentiate drug interactions, insert tubes in patients and much more after graduating from a paramedic program recently.
"I've been able to use my drug therapy skills," he said. "I'm learning every day."
Through a $25,000 grant from the state WorkSource program, seven Putnam County emergency medical technicians entered the training program at the First Coast Technical Institute in St. Augustine. Liska was the first to graduate with Daniel Hodge recently completing the program. Liska mentioned Hodges graduation on Friday because he didn't want to take all the limelight for the program.
On Sept. 23 recognized Liska for his graduation and WorkSource for its funding of the paramedic training by the Putnam County Commission.
The county has 37 paramedics, county officials said.
Mike Patterson, chief of emergency medical services, said when the county got the grant that it would help the county "for years to come."
He said Friday that at the time the county got the grant, it was "borderline. We had a shortage. We needed some paramedics."
"We're in very good shape right now," Patterson said. He credited county Human Resources Director Wayne McClain for recruiting paramedics.
"Statewide, there is a crisis" in the number of paramedics, and the Florida Association of Firefighters and other groups are addressing the shortage, Patterson said.
The WorkSource grant provides tuition and supplies for the training of emergency medical technicians to become paramedics. An ongoing shortage of accredited paramedics is plaguing many counties, including Putnam.
McClain said recruiting paramedics is tough, especially for small, rural counties like Putnam.
But Liska, a Keystone Heights resident, is staying.
"I don't have any intentions of leaving Putnam County," he said. "I've worked for big departments in South Florida. I may not get paid like a Jacksonville paramedic, but I do the same thing."
Putnam's first class of seven began in July 2002. Liska graduated in March. At the end of 10 months, they will be eligible for paramedic status. The EMTs work for the county while going to school.