Critical Jackson County Paramedic Shortage

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As a paramedic, Shawn McCardle expects to work long hours, but nothing like what's expected of him now.

"It takes a toll on the paramedic. It takes a toll on the families. The whole moral at work, you know, a lot of tension, just people being tired," says Shawn.

McCardle and Jackson County's 11 other paramedics have been forced to work up to 120-hour shifts to make up for three paramedics who quit for better paying jobs last year.

Compare that to their usual 24 hours on, 48 hours off schedule. Jackson County's Fire and Rescue chief says he can't fill the spots because the county's salary for paramedics is $5,000 to $10,000 less than what some nearby counties offer.

To make matters worse, two more paramedics may soon also quit, leaving the county with only two-thirds of its ideal workforce.

"We can have some more employees leave. The coverage becomes that much harder. We have to start denying leave and reducing the level of service we provide, that's how bad it can get," says Chief Robbie Brown of Jackson County Fire and Rescue.

Chief Brown says salary increases totaling about $60,000 would be enough keep the existing 12-man crew and may be enough to recruit two more paramedics, but he says it's merely a band aid in what should be a long-term plan.

Jackson County commissioners say they are concerned about the paramedic shortage, but will need until next Tuesday to decide what to do about it.