Boston paramedic made nearly $300K in 2020 due to call volume
With the heightened amount of medical calls during the pandemic, some EMS providers logged a massive amount of overtime
BOSTON — One city paramedic punched in for nearly $300,000 in pay last year, logging massive overtime as Boston EMS kept running 24/7 through the pandemic.
EMS pay has become an issue with mayoral candidates as salaries at the police and fire departments come under scrutiny. But payroll records obtained by the Herald through a series of public records requests show some first responders answer the call — a lot.
"If the phone keeps ringing, they keep working," said Larry DiCara, a former city councilor and city watchdog. "With Mass and Cass, that might be a variable no one understands."
The Methadone Mile, a stretch of Massachusetts Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard, is home to drug addicts and those who prey on them. That trouble zone has also become a heated mayoral issue as candidates push their own plans.
But, meanwhile, the ambulances keep running.
Boston EMS responds to an average of 316 incidents per day with an average of 205 transports, the department reports. That's through June 5.
"We are Boston's primary provider of emergency medical services and one of three public safety agencies who respond to 911 calls 24 hours a day, 7 days a week," said EMS spokeswoman Caitlin McLaughlin.
Boston EMS is the largest municipal EMS in New England.
Payroll records show the nearly 400 EMTs and paramedics include two who earned more than $200,000 in 2020 — with one paid $299,260 off a base pay of $93,996.
The Herald's request for an interview with the paramedic was denied, but he was one of the many who responded to the Marathon Day bombings in 2013 where he was credited with saving lives.
Another 130 Boston EMS employees took home $100,000 or more last year, records show. Fifty-six were paid $90,000 to $100,000. In all, the Boston EMS payroll tab for 2020 was $35.3 million.
The agency falls under the Boston Public Health Commission. The head of EMS, James Hooley, earned $168,392 last year.
The Emergency Medical Services union Monday endorsed At-Large City Councilor Annissa Essaibi George for mayor.
"They are always there when we need them — bravely providing care in the scariest and most vulnerable moments in our lives," Essaibi George said in the endorsement.
When asked by the Herald a few hours later if the Boston Public Health Commission's medical director Dr. Jennifer Lo should return from Hawaii where she has been during the pandemic, Essaibi George said it's time to look for a replacement.
"If we're going to not only recover from this pandemic, but reimagine a city that works better for everyone, we need people back in our communities, seeing and hearing directly from residents, as soon as possible," she said. "If Dr. Lo isn't able to be here in our neighborhoods, I believe the City and BPHC should think about beginning the search for an Interim Medical Director who can."
Boston EMS did not say staffing was sufficient to cut down on overtime. The agency did say there is currently a shortage of state-certified EMTs in Massachusetts.
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