Mo. county considers returning to 24-hour EMS shifts

Cole County officials will discuss switching back to 24-hour shifts in an effort to “stabilize” staffing


By EMS1 Staff

COLE COUNTY, Mo. — County officials are considering returning to 24-hour EMS shifts due to low staffing.

News-Tribune reported that Cole County officials will discuss whether or not to reverse a decision they made in August to move from 24-hour EMS shifts to 12-hour shifts because the department is down seven full-time paramedics.

"After talking with potential employees, current employees and recruits, it has become very apparent that if we have any hope to stabilize our staffing we will have to go back to 24-hour shifts,” Ambulance Director Jerry Johnston said.

Currently, the department budget allows for 55 employees, and all positions are filled except for the open paramedic positions.

Johnston said that although county officials have tried numerous tactics to recruit more paramedics, the department has reached a critical point.

"It's not something I want to do," Johnston said. "I still believe the 12-hour shift is the best. Our new Deputy Director Matt Lindewirth told me that the 24-hour shift was the only way they were able to stabilize staffing situations at his previous assignments. He said in one operation they had 30 openings, and after going to the 24-hour shift, they went to full staff."

Johnston added that the 24-shifts will be less expensive because the 12-hour shifts are resulting in overtime.

"Right now, we are 70 percent over budget for overtime," he said. "One person has worked 156 hours of overtime. This is not good for our personnel, and it's not good as we try to give the service our citizens expect of EMS. We have a very dedicated staff who has stepped up during this time, but if something isn't done soon we'll start losing them.”

Commissioner Sam Bushman hopes that some employees who resigned when the 12-hour shifts were implemented will return if the policy is reversed.

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