Paramedic Staff Shortage Crisis

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Jackson county EMS officials say 15 paramedics are just enough to respond to nearby emergencies, but right now the county has to do their best with only 12 paramedics.

Three quit about a year ago for better paying jobs and two more are expected to quit soon, leaving the county with less than 70 percent of its required staff.

"We have not lost any of our local guys. However, we have hired individuals that have come in from out of town and used the department for more-or-less a training, and then once they go their feet on the ground and got established, they have gone to bigger departments with better salaries and benefits," says Captain Byron Bennett of Jackson County Fire and Rescue.

The staff crisis is worrisome for EMS officials, but it has also taken a toll on paramedics themselves. Many are required to work 48 or even 72-hour shifts without any vacation time in sight.

"Anytime that you work an individual 24, 48 and actually 72 hours, it does tend to take a toll on that person's health and also their mind functions. That's one of the problems that we're trying to alleviate with our employees and to get our department staffed the way it should be," Bennett adds.

Then there's also the increasing amount of overtime pay for paramedics filling additional shifts at time and a half, it adds up.

Next Thursday, EMS officials will ask Jackson County commissioners to increase salaries for paramedics during a special session. Jackson county's EMS chief has asked county commissioners to consider raising salaries at least three other times before the latest staff resignations.