Commissioners approve EMS salary raise

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The Person County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a salary raise and experience pay for EMS employees at its meeting Tuesday.

With the raise, paramedics will earn $18.62 per hour, advanced EMTs will earn $16.08 per hour and EMTs will earn $14.09 per hour. Experience pay will add 2% for employees with one or two years of experience, 4% for employees with three to five years of experience, 6% for six to 10 years of experience and 7% for employees with 11 or more years of experience.

The approval comes during what Emergency Services Director Doug Young says is a statewide and national paramedic shortage.

Young said the department has seven openings currently — the equivalent of one full shift.

Young praised the current staff for working overtime hours in the absence of a full staff.

“I want to give high kudos to our current staff,” he said. “Because of the nature of our job and the compassion that they have, they have stepped up to the plate to come in on their days off and work with us to get those four trucks going.”

However, he also said that the extra work is becoming taxing on the employees and could become a retention problem.

In the past two years, Young said 21 employees have left the county — eight have left for higher pay, seven have retired and six have left for various other reasons. Since October 2018, positions have been posted nine times, two of which didn’t produce a single application. Through those postings, the county has been able to hire five paramedics, one advanced EMT and eight EMTs, Young said

Young said Caswell County pays $1 more per hour than Person County.

“That is a county that has half the population of our county, they run with one less truck than us and they have less employees, but they are able to pay more per hour for their paramedics,” Young said. “That’s what we’re up against. With the shortage, we’re up against other agencies that just pay more than we do — bottom line.”

To help solve the current shortage, Young said the department began recruiting in Virginia, among other tactics.

Young said more than a year of internal research has gone into the request. He said that research discovered there has been a 10-year paramedic shortage nationwide and for two years in North Carolina. He said he discovered that the three main factors for retention are salary, benefits and work schedule. Young said he feels the county has great benefits that others don’t have and Emergency Services’ current work schedule is one of the two most preferred in the profession statewide.

Young said it’s time to address the issue.

“I’ll tell you this: it’s at the critical stage,” he said.

EMS Division Chief Greg White presented the commissioners with the proposed raise and experience pay.

White said the raise would bring the county wages up to around the state average.

The change will be implemented March 1 at a cost of around $75,000. For the upcoming fiscal year, the implementation would cost around $170,000, including benefits.

White said the department’s salary costs will likely drop once a full staff is in place and employees are working less overtime.

Interim Assistant County Manager Laura Jensen said Emergency Services currently has enough lapsed salary funds to cover the cost of the implementation for the rest of the current fiscal year, but the costs would need to be added to the personnel budget for the next fiscal year.

Commissioners unanimously approved the recommended increase.

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