Commissioners approve hiring three for EMS

By Erin Smith -

ELIZABETHTOWN — The Bladen County Board of Commissioners met in a special meeting on Monday and voted to hire three full-time EMS workers. The cost to implement the measure will be about $116,000 per year.

Bladen County EMS Chief David Howell told the board in an earlier commissioners meeting that issues facing the EMS service include increases in the cost of supplies, cuts in medicare and medicaid reimbursements, and increases in maintenance costs. He also told the board that there are issues with overtime pay because of late 911 calls and call-outs from part-time staff.

In a meeting earlier in October, Howell presented the board with two options for staffing. The first option included the hiring of two full-time paramedics and two EMT-Basic at a cost of about $150,764. The second scenario was to hire three full-time staff members — one EMT-Intermediate level and EMT Basic level. The latter option was approved Monday.

Bladen County Commissioner Chairman Charles Ray Peterson said on Tuesday that, currently, there are 32 full-time employees with EMS and, in order to be considered fully staffed, there needs to be 40 full-time staff.

“I think it is important. We’ve got to get EMS fully staffed. When he comes to work, he is five people short every cycle,” said Peterson.

He added that by hiring the additional full-time staff, it will help in reducing the overtime costs among other things.

Peterson added that the board instructed Howell to use the data driven system to decide where to station a truck.

He added that the board will explore various ways of funding the five remaining full-time positions in the next budget cycle.

In a board meeting held earlier in the month, Howell told the board there are also issues with pay. He said in that meeting that neighboring counties often lure EMS employees away from Bladen County because of higher pay scales.

Peterson said the board is in the process of “looking at everything” in terms of the next budget cycle.

According to reports, the hiring of the three additional EMS staff will allow for the staffing of all of the EMS vehicles and reduce the use of overtime pay.

Erin Smith can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.

By Erin Smith

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