October 25, 2016

After some quick math, Carroll County Ambulance Service Director Pat Gray agreed with the board of supervisors that the department is on pace to log almost 5,000 hours of overtime this year if nothing is done to change it.

During his quarterly report Monday morning Gray told the board he’s trying to hire more help, but it’s difficult to find qualified candidates. After three-quarters of the year around 4,100 hours of overtime has already been logged.

“There are places in Des Moines that are offering a $5,000 bonus just for signing on,” he said. “It’s especially tough to get people who want to work part time.”

The ambulance service currently has 12 employees. Gray said hiring could actually save money because of the money saved on overtime.

Another option to help curb costs could be changing to a 24 hours on, 48 hours off schedule similar to how fire departments schedule employees, Gray said.

Moving to the “firefighter schedule” would require at least two more employees to cover all the shifts.

It’s not clear at this time exactly how much the overtime is costing the county because employees are paid at different rates and are allowed to bank up to 72 hours of compensatory time in lieu of overtime pay.

Gray told the board his department is seeing an increased number of calls every year and he expects that trend to continue.

“The calls are projected to increase for the next 15 years because the baby boomers are retiring and aging,” Gray said.

Gray said that the cost of overtime is not the only reason more paramedics are needed.

“There’s also the fatigue factor,” he told the supervisors. “These guys running the number of hours that they run; you have fatigued drivers and medics. As we all know fatigue leads to mistakes, errors and accidents.”

Supervisor Chairman Neil Bock said something needs to be done quickly to curb the costs.

“So everybody is getting overtime, not just a few people,” Bock said. “That really needs to change. That’s really causing a budgetary issue.”

Gray told the board he will continue to search for new employees and do whatever he can to cut employee costs.

In more positive news, Gray told the board his department recently received five LUCAS 2 Chest Compression System devices as part of a $6.3 million grant to the Iowa Department of Public Health by the Helmsley Trust.

The devices are able to perform CPR for longer and more consistently than humans.

In other business, the board unanimously approved the third reading of an amendment to the County Zoning Ordinance providing rules and regulations for the construction of solar-power systems throughout the county.