N.C. county offers EMS bonuses to combat staffing shortages
Donovan Davis, Randolph County Emergency Services chief, said the department is grateful that county officials are committed to providing quality services to the public
ASHEBORO, N.C. — Randolph County leaders recently approved a new Emergency Services bonus to help employ and retain paramedics and other vital positions facing shortages.
Donovan Davis, Randolph County Emergency Services chief, said the department is grateful that county officials committed to providing quality services to the public.
He believes the financial support to address the EMS division's critical need and the ability to award employees for their hard work is a blessing.
Due to temporary short staff in the 911 center, the financial plan includes a bonus for 911 telecommunicators who work extra hours to cover shifts.
The county has also completed other objectives, such as increasing the number of annual emergency service buildings to three, covering the southern portion of the community in the last few years. The southern parts include Coleridge and New Hope Township. A new station was also added in Trinity, which has higher call volumes.
New medical equipment for ambulances and paramedics were implemented and the latest state-of-the-art 911 center was helpful during the pandemic. In addition, the emergency operation center was one of the most functional offices where emergency staff could come together.
The county also approved changing 24-hour shifts to 12-hour shifts, hiring 24 additional positions and a physician classification studies. The studies allowed the government to pay paramedics typically what other counties are making, so there is no large salary gap.
According to County Manager Hal Johnson, the county has addressed every issue proactively facing emergency services. However, the pandemic had a significant impact on emergency services.
"The impact caused us to have a shortage of personnel in recruitment and being able to hire people offering the salary, benefits, approved positions and getting paramedics to come work," Johnson said.
Johnson said the assistant manager, the human resource director and himself met with Davis and his senior staff to brainstorm what they could do to recruit people to the county to ensure staff on all ambulances.
The board approved sign-on bonuses for eight vacant paramedic positions. The bonuses are $4,500 and Johnson said they are one of the first counties to implement it.
Those new employees would get $1,125 at the hire and $1,125 within the next six months. The county is also financially supporting current paramedics with emergency pay. The emergency pay is a $200 bonus when paramedics work a 12-hour shift and are asked to work an additional 12-hour shift.
The funds for the sign-on bonus and emergency pay are coming from the county budget. However, the holiday payback period will be coming from federal recovery funds.
The holiday payback period is for staff who were not able to take their vacation days. The government arranged to pay them after 40 hours. If they have accrued more than 40 hours of vacation days, they will be paid for that.
The county has not decided how the recovery funds will be used because there is no final ruling from the federal Treasury. They are waiting for some guidance but believe they can use the money for the holiday payback since it could supplement emergency services staffing when overworked.
The local government has also elevated the salaries of telecommunicators for equity among them and their trainers. Johnson said a few years ago at the 911 center they were having trouble recruiting telecommunications, so they set up the position for telecommunicators and trainers.
Emergency services are accepting applications until Nov. 12 for eight full-time certified paramedic positions. In addition, they have 13 essential emergency medical technicians enrolled in the paramedic program at Randolph Community College.
The students will not graduate until December 2022, but Davis said that is a part of the emergency service's long-range plan to increase staffing levels.
"So we're doing everything we can financially to try to address the situation that we're experiencing, along with every other county in North Carolina and nationally," Johnson said.
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