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Putnam EMS Seeing Increased Use, Higher Wages Needed For Quality Employees

/ The Upper Cumberland's News Leader
Putnam EMS Seeing Increased Use, Higher Wages Needed For Quality Employees

Putnam County EMS is projecting a seven percent usage increase since the start of the fiscal year.

Director Tommy Copeland said the increased usage is continuing to wear down his existing staff, more so than vehicles and equipment. Copeland said that asking for higher worker pay is already on his radar for the next budget season.

Copeland said higher pay helps more than adding new positions.

“You really need to get and keep really good, quality people,” Copeland said. “You know, keep the good providers you’ve got, rather than starting over and starting from scratch with new people.”

Copeland said the magic question is what kind of pay solves the retention and recruitment problem. He said finding the answer is something he will consult in-house and across the region on in the lead up to the next budget formation.

“I would rather retain good employees than get new employees, if you know what I mean,” Copeland said. “You wont have the people who have been here for five or ten or 15 years that have that experience and knowledge and abilities already, rather than train somebody brand new.”

Copeland said it is a three to four month process training someone for an entry level position, saying it is an up to three year process to become a critical care medic. Copeland said the way COVID has made the job even more difficult over the last 18 months could leave a bad impression on potential employees.

“It gives them a little pause of, ‘do I really want to be working somewhere where I have to wear protective gear and do all that stuff all the time because of this?” Copeland said. “I think that is a difficulty and I think the responsibility is a big thing with my folks. That we’re making very high-level decisions on taking care of patients and the compensation may be… The level of compensation versus responsibility versus everything that they’ve got to do, maybe is not adequate to attract new people to the field.”

Copeland said that currently, paramedics start out at $17.48 an hour, a position requiring two years of school. He said basic EMT’s start at $13.43 an hour, advanced EMT’s start at $14.78 an hour.


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