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EMS director working to transition agency to 12-hour shifts

Randolph County EMS Director Donovan Davis said a tired paramedic is more likely to make medical errors or mistakes while driving

By Larry Penkava
The Courier-Tribune

ASHEBORO, N.C. — “We must devise a plan to convert EMS to 12-hour shifts from 24-hour shifts.”

That statement by Donovan Davis, director of Emergency Services, was made to the Randolph County commissioners during their annual retreat Thursday. He had the figures to back it up.

“We've lost 47 paramedics since 2014 and the majority of them went to 12-hour shifts” in other counties. Others have gone into nursing or physician's assistant jobs making more money, a few have retired and some were terminated. Still others decided to get out of emergency medicine for 8-to-5 jobs.

Davis said there are more than 40 recent studies and articles that show that the fatigue associated with working 24-hour shifts causes risks to patients as well as the public at large. A tired paramedic is more likely to make medical errors or mistakes while driving.

A map of North Carolina showed that Randolph is one of 14 counties in the Piedmont and foothills still using 24-hour shifts. Another 19 emergency services departments are on 12-hour shifts while seven more are a combination or are transitioning to 12 hours. Eight of those with 24-hour shifts have 72 hours off between shifts while Randolph paramedics are only off 48 hours.

“All studies support discontinuation of 24-hour shifts,” said Davis, adding that 12-hour shifts “avoid medical errors.”

In addition, Davis said, there is a shortage of paramedics nationwide. Transitioning to 12-hour shifts will help Randolph County in recruiting and retaining paramedics from a smaller pool.

He asserted that the county needs to “devise a plan to add a new EMS shift and convert existing employees to 12 hours.” While moving to 12-hour shifts would likely cost more in wages, Davis said the safety issues make it worth the cost. He added that the move is consistent with the county's Strategic Plan, which was adopted in 2016 and includes improvements to public safety.

During his presentation, Davis listed the following EMS statistics for 2017:

  • EMS responded to 22,659 calls, 1,700 more since adding the Erect ambulance.
  • Nine ambulances covered nearly 800 square miles.
  • EMS transported 15,943 patients to Triad and critical care hospitals.
  • More than 600 inter-facility transfers (hospital to hospital) were made, each call averaging two hours.

He also provided figures for 911 calls for 2017:

  • Telecommunicators answered 94,307 calls to 911, 1,735 more than 2016. Telecommunicators answered 88,247 administrative and alarm lines, a 13.78 percent increase over 2016.
  • Telecommunicators dispatched 123,529 calls to law enforcement, EMS, fire and rescue, including transfers to other counties, duplicate answers and citizen-assist calls.
  •  Telecommunicators made 1,167,276 individual radio log entries, an increase of 8.94 percent over 2016.
  • Telecommunicators made 50,141 administrative calls to hospitals, wrecker services, water departments, hospice, nursing homes, other law enforcement agencies, alarm companies, animal control, N.C. Department of Transportation, city/town maintenance, doctors, medical examiner and air ambulance.

Copyright 2018 The Courier-Tribune

McClatchy-Tribune News Service
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