Celina’s ambulance services are struggling to fill full-time EMT and paramedic positions.
Director Natalie Boone said Monday the issue boils down to low pay and few benefits available to employees.
“Every service is short-staffed now. There’s a shortage of EMTs and paramedics anymore,” Boone said. “We’ve been referred to as a dying breed. Folks don’t want to go to school for that amount of time anymore for the amount of money that they make and the lack of benefits that they have.”
According to Boone, basic EMTs in Celina are paid approximately $8.75 per hour, only $1.50 higher than the state’s minimum wage of $7.25. Advanced EMTs make $9.75 an hour while paramedics make $11.75 after 18 months of schooling.
Boone said the potential re-opening of Cumberland River Hospital in the coming months could mean additional work for current ambulance employees.
“If it is an emergency room only initially, I think it will affect us because with no in-patient beds, we were already making 128 transfers out of the hospital a year before the hospital closed,” Boone said. “So if all we have is an ER and all that’s going to have to be transferred on, that is going to greatly increase our run volume, yes. But we’ll be happy to have that.”
Celina’s Board of Aldermen discussed the issue of paying and retaining ambulance staff during Monday’s meeting.
While the ambulance service falls under the City of Celina, Boone said Clay County contracts with the city to expand coverage outside city limits.
“I think sometimes we forget that our greatest asset is our people,” Boone said. “I do my best to fight for my employees and try to take care of them the best I can.”
City officials mentioned the possibility of asking for additional funding from the county government to help offer more benefits during the meeting.
Boone said the ambulance service will ask the city to amend its budget later in the fiscal year if changes in pay and/or compensation are needed.
An official motion to seek additional funding for the county was not passed during Tuesday’s aldermen meeting.