7 EMS positions approved to help alleviate staffing shortage in N.C. county

Henderson County commissioners unanimously approved two vacation/sick relief positions and five paramedics to staff a second quick response vehicle

Rebecca Walter
Times-News, Hendersonville, N.C.

HENDERSON COUNTY, N.C. — Seven new Emergency Management Services positions were approved Wednesday by the Henderson County Board of Commissioners to help alleviate the local EMS staffing shortage.

Emergency Services Director Jimmy Brissie explained a number of contributing factors to commissioners. Increased competition for recruitment and staff, particularly in the private sector, has been a challenge.

When an EMS employee gets COVID-19 or is identified as a close contact they are also unable to work. Like many sectors in healthcare, burnout is another driver, Brissie said. Some workers are leaving the field entirely.

The immediate solution would be to hire more staff, Brissie explained. A total of 24 EMS workers have left Henderson County since 2018. Fifty percent of EMS staff in the county have less than five years of experience due to turnover in the industry, according to Brissie.

Commissioners unanimously approved two vacation/sick relief positions at an estimated cost of $128,000, and five paramedics to allow the assistant supervisor to staff a second quick response vehicle, at a cost of $327,421.

The money is slated to come from American Rescue Plan funds. The commissioners also expressed willingness to add the expenses to the budget if needed.

Commissioner Mike Edney described EMS workers as the "core job of county government."

The staffing strains have sometimes reduced the number of operating ambulances and increased response times.

Henderson County EMS typically has eight ambulances in service. In the past four and a half months, there have been 87 days a truck has been taken out of service due to a staff shortage, Brissie told commissioners.

Even having an employee out for vacation or injury puts a significant strain on staff. It has also become harder to get the employees who are available to work to pick up overtime shifts.

Increased response times particularly affect the more rural parts of the county. Brissie said ambulances are strategically moved around to help offset the issue.

Competition in the region is high for recruitment and retention, according to Brissie.

He proposed that the county conduct a comprehensive salary study to see local comparisons and make necessary adjustments.

Commissioner David Hill asked if there will be enough applicants to fill the new positions. Brissie said he believes filling the positions may take some time due to "competition and the stress of the job right now."

Henderson County EMS works closely with nearby community colleges to recruit future staff. A student that won't graduate until May is likely already being approached for recruitment, Brissie said.

"The key is getting to the game earlier," he said.


(c)2021 Times-News, Hendersonville, N.C.


McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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