Falck offering $50K signing bonuses to combat San Diego paramedic staffing shortage

The company is also offering $10K bonuses to current employees whose referrals sign on


UPDATE: 

The company is also offering $10,000 bonuses to current employees whose referrals sign on to work for Falck in San Diego. That bonus would be paid out over a year, 7 San Diego reported.

ORIGINAL: 

By David Garrick
The San Diego Union-Tribune

SAN DIEGO — San Diego's new ambulance provider, Falck USA, will try to solve its paramedic staffing crisis by giving new hires $50,000 signing bonuses, it announced Friday.

The new bonuses come two weeks after city leaders promised to take drastic action next month that could include adding a second ambulance provider or taking the service away from Falck and merging it into the city's Fire-Rescue Department.

Falck was chosen last year to replace longtime provider American Medical Response because Falck promised to improve service, but the company hasn't come close to fulfilling those promises.

Not only hasn't it kept its promise to increase daily ambulance hours across the city from 840 to 1,008, Falck also hasn't met the minimum of 900 daily hours required by its city contract in any month since it took over last November.


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Falck officials said Friday that they expect the $50,000 bonuses, which will be paid out over three years as $600 bonuses in each paycheck, to make a big difference.

"Falck is aggressively recruiting paramedics to work in the city of San Diego, and this new bonus will strengthen our recruiting efforts," said Jeff Behm, who oversees Falck's local operations. "The new paramedics will be reinforcements."

Tony Sorci, leader of the labor union representing Falck's local paramedics and EMTs, said the large signing bonuses are welcome news, but that they are unlikely to solve the company's problems.

"We say hurrah — but it doesn't do anything to help with the problems of the current workforce," said Sorci, stressing that Falck pays less than competing ambulance providers.

Sorci said American Medical Response pays $24.94 an hour to starting paramedics compared to $22.39 paid by Falck, which amounts to a $6,500 difference in annual salary — $63,713 versus $57,206.

Sorci said that difference is even more stark when you factor in overtime, which is common for paramedics. And the signing bonuses don't affect compensation for existing workers.

"It's about the ability to retain the experienced paramedics we do have," Sorci said.

Falck had 109 full-time paramedics available to work in late November, well short of the 134 needed and the 148 it would like to have so it can cover vacations and sick days.Those shortages force Falck to leave several ambulances unstaffed and dormant on most days.

Falck has blamed a national shortage of paramedics since the pandemic began and delays dropping off patients at hospitals, which can tie up Falck ambulances for lengthy periods.

This story originally appeared in San Diego Union-Tribune.

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McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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