Dare EMS budget problems stirring concerns
Because EMS shifts are structured as 24 hours on and 48 hours off, the work week comes out to 56 hours, creating the need for an annual overtime budget of more than $1 million.
County Manager Bobby Outten said Monday that the overtime budget has been consistently exceeded. Asked for how long, he said “several” years.
“I’ve got to get that operation within its budget,” he said.
EMS workers and their supporters, most speaking anonymously by e-mail and phone, say the scheduling has led many to factor the overtime into their family budgets. With base pay comparable to other counties, some say they need the extra money to pay bills in Dare, where the cost of living is higher.
An estimate commonly cited is that losing overtime would equate to a 10 percent pay cut. Some are concerned that the changes could weaken EMS as paramedics look for jobs elsewhere.
But Outten said the system now is “not sustainable in the long run.”
Plans have not been finalized, but Outten did say that changes are coming. County officials are analyzing call volume by time of day, seasons and months to see when overstaffing might be occurring. The county is also looking to fill five positions, he said.
The object, he said, would be to cut back during slower times, such as early mornings in the winter, and shifting assets to periods when they are most needed.
Structuring schedules at 24 hours on and 48 hours off is appealing to some workers because they are predictable enough to allow them to hold down second jobs.
Initial salaries for Emergency Medical Technicians are about $24,000 to $29,000, while paramedics can start at a little over $32,000. This year, salaries were budgeted at $3.1 million and overtime at $1.4 million.
At Monday’s Board of Commissioners meeting, two speakers expressed concerns about changes in scheduling.
Georgianna Dunn, a former Dare County paramedic, said she participated in a 1999 salary study. She said the structure and management needs retooling, but cutting personnel and the number of ambulances on call is not the solution.
“EMS needs radical management and staffing changes,” she said. “There’s no need for finger pointing or blame. We just need to fix the problem. Reducing the number of medics and ambulances on the road is not the answer.”
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