Rescue them: What NYC’s EMTs deserve

New York Daily News Editorial | December 15, 2020

With due respect for our competitor, we strongly disagree that a New York City emergency medical service lifesaver setting up a page on the website known as OnlyFans, where she supplements her income by charging for access to racy photos and videos, qualifies as a scandal. Especially in a world where the FDNY still sells an official cheesecake calendar.

What is scandalous is the fact that paramedic Lauren Caitlyn Kwei earns so little money in her first responder day job that she needs a side hustle to get by.

“The bottom line: I don’t get paid a lot. I’m just trying to make ends meet,” said Kwei, who works for a private ambulance company, where she makes $25 an hour.

The private sector pays less than the public, but disrespect infects treatment of the entire profession. FDNY EMTs and paramedics, who also happen to be more female and diverse, typically earn much, much less over time than their counterparts in the Fire and Police Departments, despite the fact they’re doing some of the city’s most dangerous and important work. EMT starting salaries average $35,000, reaching $50,000 after five years, paramedics begin at $48,000 annually, reaching $65,000 after five years. Rookie firefighters start out around $45,000, then earn more than $110,000 after five years.

The pandemic has made embarrassing disparities in EMS worker treatment all the more glaring. In deadly March and April, EMS workers, many without access to proper PPE, responded to a record high 6,527 911 calls on March 30, a drastic increase from the already-back-breaking 4,000 calls they did pre-pandemic. More than 500 EMS workers were infected. At least six died of the disease.

One EMT taking off her clothes for money is merely titillating. Systematically underpaying some of our most vital first responders is an outrage.

This editorial has been updated to reflect the actual increase in daily 911 calls EMS responded to during the pandemic.