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N.C. county considers putting EMS on 24/72 shift schedule

“Our call volume is increasing but we’re not getting the downtime,” Scotland County Public Safety Director Robert Sampson said


Scotland County EMS/Facebook

By Tomeka Sinclair
The Laurinburg Exchange

LAURINBURG, N.C. — Scotland County’s Public Safety director is reconsidering the working hours of the county’s EMS.

Robert Sampson recently told the Scotland County Board of Commissioners that in order for the EMS Department to be more competitive as far as recruitment, and to retain its employees while also keeping them safe, the county must divert from the shift schedule that has been in place for decades.

According to Sampson, Scotland County is the sole county in the region working three 24/48 shifts, meaning EMS employees work for 24 hours and then take two days off before their next shift.

“That is a schedule that was started way back in the 80s when the EMS was first established in Scotland County,” Sampson said.

Sampson said during the 1990s, the EMS was averaging around 4,000 calls per year and that included bed-bound patients that needed rides to doctors’ appointments, dialysis transports, the vast majority of medical transports to other medical facilities and 911 calls, all with two ambulances.

“In 2022, we ran 7,268 calls so we have just about doubled the call volume just in 911 calls over the last 20-plus years and we’re still working the same work schedule ... that number is projected to increase this year,” Sampson said.

Sampson said the issue with the working schedule as it stands is that there is not enough downtime for EMS employees and the call volume has increased significantly since the current schedule was first established.

“We are busy. That’s the point I want to make. We are busy ... Our call volume is increasing but we’re not getting the downtime,” Sampson added.

Twenty-four counties within the state have some variation of this 24/48 shift schedule but all counties that neighbor Scotland County, use a 12-hour shift schedule.

Currently, only five of the 18 individuals employed full-time with Scotland County’s EMS actually live within the county.

“All the rest of my full-time employees live outside of the county so that tells you right off the bat that I’m having to go outside of our boundaries to recruit ... the numbers just aren’t there in our county,” Sampson said.

Sampson proposed shifting to a 24/72 work schedule, effective July 1. Funds from the currently allocated six positions will fund the building of a fourth shift. Creating the fourth shift means that the county would need to hire an EMS supervisor and reclassify a paramedic position to an assistant supervisor position for the new shift. Sampson also proposed hiring an EMS training officer.

According to data Sampson presented to the commissioners, 26 counties in the state have transitioned to this shift schedule, “and that number will continue to grow.”

In order to remain competitive, the county will have to give into EMS applicants, Sampson said.

“The sad part is, they have the control ... They know that they can go somewhere else that will offer them what they want and get a job so they benefit, I lose,” Sampson said.

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