Cole County EMS to move back to 24-hour shifts
COLE COUNTY - The Cole County Commission has approved the EMS chief's plan to bring 24-hour shifts back.
"There's a nationwide shortage of paramedics. It's not just unique to us or Missouri. It's the whole nation," said Cole County EMS Chief Matthew Lindewirth.
For about a year, the commission chose to use 12-hour paramedic shifts based on safety concerns. As a result, some paramedics resigned or were let go. Those paramedics voiced concerns, saying that led to longer hours overall and interfered with family time.
Lindewirth says bringing back the 24-hour shifts will offer more flexibility and could be the answer to filling staffing shortages.
"Twenty four hour shifts are a standard in this industry. It's what people are used to and it creates more time with your family," said Dack Spang, a captain at Cole County EMS.
Usually, with 12 hour shifts, paramedics work 21 days a month. Lindewirth said with the new modified 24-hour shift, paramedics will work between nine and 11 days.
"It's really important for my staff to have that work-life balance. This will improve our quality of care," Lindewirth said.
However, Spang said he is a bit apprehensive about the changes.
"Personally, I have mixed feelings about the changes, but I know it's the right decision."
Lindewirth says the service is looking to fill the positions left vacant when the department was going through changes. It wants to hire six paramedics, two dispatchers, a logistics officer and a training officer.
The new 24-hour shifts will go into effect on Aug. 26. Lindewirth is hoping the vacancies are mostly filled by mid-September.
The commission's decision to switch back to 24-hour shifts brings a new pay scale with it as well. Lindewirth said paramedics could get a $4,000 to $6,000 raise.
The funding for this is coming from a sales tax voters authorized in 2008-2009. Lindewirth said the overall budget impact is not as great as what people think it is.
The new model consists of five 24-hour units and three 12-hour peak units. Typically, eight people are needed to staff a 12-hour shift. Only six people will staff the 24-hour shifts now.
"The extra people mean that I can take those people and use them to add more units to the system," Lindewirth said.
Cole County EMS serves almost 80,000 people. Lindewirth said the goal is to raise the level of care the service provides to the county.
"Eventually the plan is to take one of the units and relocate to the east end of Jefferson City. We could either build a new station or occupy one. We're also hoping for a reduction in response times over the long haul and making Cole County EMS the best system in the state."