PRINCETON, Ind. (WEHT)- If you work eight hours in a day, you would expect to be paid for those eight hours. Likewise, if you work 40 hours in a week, you would expect to work just over 2,000 hours in a year.
But if you’re a paramedic or an EMT in Gibson County, you could work a 24-hour shift but only be paid for 16 hours and you could also expect to work almost 3,000 hours in a year.
County EMS Director David Pond says the county is one of the many counties in the state and the country dealing with a paramedic shortage. Pond says Indiana currently has a shortage of anywhere from 600 to 1,000 paramedics. Pond adds this is a growing concern in a field where the need for EMS jobs is expected to grow six percent by the end of the decade.
Locally, Pond says the agency was unable to fill an opening left in June when a paramedic left to become a truck driver. While the county isn’t in dire straits yet, Pond warns the situation could get worse if the current situation isn’t improved.
The Gibson County Council several proposals to switch the pay schedule to fully pay for all 24 hours, but did not vote on any of them. Several officials, including some from Deaconess Hospital in Princeton spoke on the ongoing need for paramedics in the county.
Pond says the existing pay schedule is part of the problem for the agency to both retain and find paramedics. Employees are paid $19.28 per hour but if there are no calls between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m., the pay rate drops to $12.85 per hour for paramedics and even lower for EMTs.
Workers like paramedic Jim Allen say it only adds to an already stressful job. Allen says paramedics need the full pay just to get by and they often work 36, 48-hour shifts to maintain coverage with the increased call volume. That, Allen says, takes a toll on the workers.