Supervisors vote for 24/7 emergency service

By Heather Michon

The Board of Supervisors held its final meeting of 2022 on Wednesday night (Dec. 21) and they did not take it easy on themselves, with an agenda full of work sessions, presentations, and action matters stretching over five hours. 

The biggest item on the evening’s to-do list was how to provide the county with round-the-clock emergency personnel.  

At their previous meeting, the supervisors had voted to approve additions to the county code to lay the groundwork for a new Department of Emergency Services. On Wednesday, they decided how this department would be structured and what it might cost.

At the moment, the county has a contract with a company that provides one fully-staffed ambulance crew on a 24/7 basis and one crew that works a 12-hour shift on weekdays. Volunteers from Lake Monticello provide at least one crew each weekday and one or two crews on the weekends.

Under the new plan, the county would directly hire ambulance crews, rather than contact private companies. Volunteer staffing would remain unchanged.  

County Administrator Eric Dahl and Emergency Management Coordinator Debbie Smith presented several potential staffing options:

Two crews on a 24/7 schedule;

Three crews on a 24/7 schedule;

Two crews working 24/7 with one crew working 9 hours on weekdays.

The annual costs would range from $1.7 million to $2.5 million.

The staff’s recommendation was for the first option: two 24/7 crews. This would allow a higher level of service than the county can currently provide for with a relatively small budget increase.

Given the level of volunteer support from Lake Monticello, the other two options might result in “a really happy paid crew not doing much,” said Smith. 

Between the different ways they could schedule shifts to the amount of overtime ambulance teams accrue as an inevitable part of the random nature of emergency calls, the conversation veered into the weeds several times over the hour-long discussion.  

“I wish there was a perfect way to do this,” said Dahl at one point in the discussion. “There’s lots of complications to it.”

Further complicating the conversation is the long-term potential for Fluvanna to move away from volunteer firefighters and the mixed paid/volunteer emergency medical services teams to a career “firefighter EMT” model, where a paid staff performs both firefighting and emergency medical services. 

Smith said she had a discussion with Kents Store Fire Chief Andrew Pullen where he pointed out that they could either lose a lot of this new EMS staff if the county later shifted to the firefighter EMT format –  or end up paying a lot more in overtime. 

 Firefighter EMTs usually work on what they call a “56-hour shift,” consisting of two consecutive 24-hour shifts and extra work, followed by four days off, whereas EMS teams generally follow a 48-hour format of 24 hours on, three days off.

But as both Smith and Lake Monticello Water Rescue Chief John Lye pointed out, that shift is probably years away, and there’s more of a ticking time clock around EMS services. It will take many months to hire a new EMS supervisor and build new crews, and all that will have to be in place no later than Sept. 30.

While that may seem like a ways off, Lye said he actually wished this matter had been decided several months ago. Among his other concerns, he noted that the job pool for EMS crews is tight right now, and the county will have to offer an attractive package to draw experienced staff to the positions.

Chair Mike Sheridan (Columbia), a longtime volunteer with Kents Store fire company, said he was tempted to defer the matter until they could clarify some issues. However, all three issues finally came up for a vote, with supervisors unanimously approving new position descriptions, the establishment of two 24/7 ambulance shifts, and $268,000 in startup costs for the new department. 

Related Posts

dewi88 cuanslot dragon77 cuan138 enterslots rajacuan megahoki88 ajaib88 warung168 fit188 pusatwin pusatwin slot tambang88 mahkota88 slot99 emas138