By Jeremy D. Wells
Carter County Times
The Carter County emergency ambulance service has been operating so efficiently that for the last two months they’ve come in under budget on payroll. They’ve maintained those payroll goals even with unanticipated overtime driving payroll up, finance coordinator Valerie Nolan noted. But unless the service is able to replace staff they’re expecting to lose to retirement and relocation in the coming months, those overtime payroll costs could start inflating those numbers very soon.
Executive director Rick Loperfido explained during his report to the ambulance board that the service was “quickly becoming short staffed with paramedics.”
They normally have 12 medics on staff, he said, but they are currently down to nine and could go as low as eight if they don’t see a turn around soon.
He said they had lost one of their paramedics to another county, while another has moved to part time because she is following her spouse to another county. They’ll be down a third paramedic with the upcoming retirement of Dennis Hylton, Loperfido told the board, and a fourth is out on worker’s compensation leave. Though that fourth individual is expected to return to work once they’ve fully healed, that means the service could be down as many as four paramedics for some period of time.
While things aren’t quite as bad with EMTs, he noted the service is down one EMT over the staffing level they’d like to have.
As a result, he said, they’re actively recruiting staff.
“The critical thing right now is finding staff,” Loperfido said. While the service’s part time employees are doing an “exemplary job” in the interim, he said, they can’t fill the gap indefinitely.
If they can’t find enough people to fill all their open roles soon, he said, they may have to look at sidelining one of their trucks until they can.
He said he and Nolan have been looking at novel ways to attract and retain employees, he said. One of the things that Loperfido settled on was an additional per diem amount for staff who work 12 or 24 hour shifts. Those who work a 12-hour shift will qualify for $12 per shift to cover food and other incidental costs. Those who work a 24-hour shift would receive $24 per shift to cover their costs.
Loperfido told the board it’s a more economical way for the service to offer an incentive to employees than offering a one dollar per hour raise would.
While the per diem is expected to cost the service just over $70,000 a year to cover all available shifts, Loperfido said if they were to offer it as an across the board raise of one dollar per hour it would cost the ambulance service in excess of $100,000 per year with the additional taxes and retirement costs.
Employees also wouldn’t see the full dollar per hour by the time they paid their own taxes on the money, he said. But because per diem expenses are tax exempt for both the ambulance service which pays them and the employees who collect them, he said, they’ll receive the full dollar for each hour of work they put in.
In other action Loperfido reported on the status of the service’s trucks, and efforts to improve internet access enough for staff at the Grayson location to remotely monitor security cameras at the Olive Hill location.
He also gave updates on the field inspections from the state, and surgical cricothyrotomy training, which had to be rescheduled due to a lack of available training manikins.
Loperfido also reported on efforts to lower health insurance costs, and planned participation in an upcoming mock emergency event at East Carter High School. Loperfido said the event, scheduled to coincide with the days before prom, was designed to “put into kids’ heads what can happen if they drink and drive.”
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