Stokes County EMS needs more employees

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STOKES COUNTY, N.C. -- Emergency Services Director Greg Collins says he and his staff have been working hard for months getting the best emergency care to residents even while being short-staffed.

“We have not had to shut any trucks down,” Collins said. “Every shift has been covered by people working extra shifts.”

Between resignations, retirements and workers going on leave, Collins says EMS is short six workers.

In April, county commissioners tried to fill in that gap by approving emergency funding to increase pay for full and part-time workers.

The goal was to motivate workers to pick up extra shifts, a plan Collins says has been working.

“That additional money was a godsend for us,” Collins said.

But with the emergency funding running out at the end of the month, county commissioners now have to come up with a more permanent plan.

“We can’t compete unless we make some changes,” said County Manager Rick Morris.

On Wednesday, Morris laid out a plan to county commissioners which he says would cost the county more money but would help keep a much-needed service up and running.

“We’re in a rural county,” Morris said. “We’re not close to a hospital, so this EMS is really important.”

The new plan would give EMS workers extra days off and increase the hourly rate for full time paramedics from $12.07 to about $15.50.

The plan also includes hiring 11 more workers, costing the county about a half a million dollars more.

County commissioners say money is tight.

“It’s a very tough and difficult decision,” said Leon Inman, chairman of Stokes County Board of Commissioners.

Commissioners are also looking into hiring a private company to run EMS instead of the county, which may help cut costs.

“We’ll come up with a budget that hopefully is one that the county can afford and that the taxpayers can afford,” Inman said.

County commissioners have until June 30 to approve a new budget.