By Louie Tran
FORSYTH COUNTY, North Carolina (WXII) — A petition was created to request the Forsyth County leadership to increase and align EMS pay with nearby counties to address the staffing shortage issue.
A viewer reached out to WXII 12 News and shared a screenshot of the petition. It writes that EMTs and paramedics of Forsyth County are requesting an update to the county’s recent pay plan resolution.
“The purpose of this is to incentivize medics to not only stay with Forsyth County, but to join us. We are at a critical deficit in emergency staff and need help. Our current staffing deficit is a detriment to every citizen in Forsyth County and puts the general population in danger,” it writes.
FORSYTH COUNTY: WXII 12 News talked with Dudley Watts, county manager, Thursday about the situation.
Watts said the county’s board of commissioners recently approved a pay increase for EMTs and paramedics last Thursday.
He said the board approved the recommendation from a consulting company that reviewed market data within the industry. He said the county had an original budget for $5 million to cover the increase, but the approval resulted in a total of $8.5 million.
He said the additional $3.5 million will come from tax revenues from next fiscal year’s budget planning such as property and sales taxes.
A mid-year adjustment to the current fiscal-year budget is not normal, he added, but it was sparked due to the market change within the industry.
WXII 12 News asked Watts if a tax rate increase could result from this approval. He said there’s a possibility, but he believes the tax revenues should cover the pay increase.
“Our commitment is to be competitive,” he said. “I don’t see us being the highest-paid employer. I don’t see us the being the lowest, but we got to be in the hunt, and we got to be competitive.”
According to a copy of the resolution that WXII 12 News obtained, the starting pay for the EMT paramedic position is $46,736.56, and the starting pay for EMT role is $40,372.80.
WXII 12 News requested the pay structure from Guilford County Emergency Medical Services and Davie County Emergency Medical Services to understand how Forsyth County’s pay structure compares to nearby counties.
Guilford County offers its EMTs a starting pay of $39,707, and its paramedics a starting pay of $52,956.
For Davie County, county leaders offer EMTs a starting salary of $31,987, and paramedics with $40,824.
WXII 12 News asked Watts if he believes the recent pay increase was competitive.
“I think what the board did last Thursday was essential. I understand that market is dynamic and is changing so I do understand somebody saying, we weren’t aggressive enough and we weren’t competitive enough. The board took that action based on the data we had,” he said.
Watts said county officials will meet again in February to talk about the challenges the industry is facing, and another possible pay increase.
FORSYTH COUNTY EMERGENCY MEDICAL SERVICES: WXII 12 News talked with Joey Hundley, chief of Forsyth County Emergency Medical Services, who’s been working in the role for a month, to further learn about the current situation within the division.
“It’s very difficult. Staffing shortages are huge,” he said.
Hundley confirmed that he learned about the petition Wednesday.
“I only understand there’s a petition addressing pay. I have not looked at it. I haven’t seen it. That’s all I know,” he shared.
Hundley said the emergency services division currently has around 180 workers, and there are currently 50 vacancies.
He said like many industries across the United States, his division is facing a staffing shortage that began when the pandemic hit.
The emergency medical services division receives more than 100 calls per day, he added, which impacts his limited staff.
He said the overall number of calls his division receives has increased over the past years, which aligns with their expectations, he said.
“I’m certainly empathetic to the staff,” said Hundley. “In a 12-hour shift, they’re running 13 or 14 calls, which is extremely high. Then they have to stay after to catch up on patient care reports.”
Hundley said his division is actively recruiting people within the community by offering free training and educational programs.
However, he is competing against hospitals, nearby counties, and private businesses for the same pool of limited candidates, he said.
“We’re competing every day with every surrounding county and every partner we have to deliver emergency medical services to the community to keep the numbers high.” He added, “If one county or one area does a huge pay increase, it’s going to impact everyone surrounding them who are trying to keep up.”
He added, “We generate revenue based on billing for services, but we don’t generate the kind of revenue that private entities do. It’s easier for a private business entity to change pay structure and give people bonuses and do the kind of things you can do from a private industry perspective than it is for any municipal government.”
WXII 12 News asked Hundley about the steps he is taking to support his staff.
“I want to be supportive to our team. I want to look at the total compensation program, and those are the conversations I’ve had with my bosses,” he responded.
Despite the staffing shortages, Hundley said his team will prioritize emergency calls to keep the community safe.
“We’re going to take care of the community from the emergency calls that come in –first and foremost — there’s no question about that,” Hundley said.
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