DAVIDSON COUNTY — A budget presentation from Davidson County Emergency Services Director Larry James earlier this month highlighted a need for full-time staff members to operate the county’s four 12-hour EMS shifts.
Over the last two years, call volume for Davidson County EMS has increased by 8.2%, from 25,729 calls in FY 2020-21 to 28,032 calls in FY 2021-22. Another increase to 30,000 calls is projected for this fiscal year, according to county models. James told the board that DCES has 92 total full-time shift employee positions and 56 total part-time employee positions to staff the department.
Day shift runs from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., while the night shift is from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. A “prime time” unit operates a shift from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Day shift has 24 full-time employees, including the shift supervisor, while night shift has 22 full-time employees including the shift supervisor. Davidson County had six open positions as of May 23.
“Our big problem is our full time,” said Commissioner James Shores, who works closely with emergency services as a patrol supervisor with Thomasville Police Department.
The proposed budget this year calls for a 15.3% increase in local funding to emergency services, up $756,423. A majority of the increase is due to the inclusion of an employee cost-of-living adjustment of $500, plus 2% of the personnel’s base salary, in addition to a 10% increase in employer cost related to group health insurance.
Additionally, the county has provided local funding toward a mandated state increase in employee retirement of 7%. Finally, the budget includes the full-year cost associated with the third-year of the county’s employee pay study.
The remaining increase is related to a spike in expected fuel costs for the upcoming fiscal year, as well as increased cost related to the medical examiner. One high-mileage ambulance is scheduled to be replaced and two remounts on a pair of existing ambulances will allow the county to get continued use out of them.
Much of the conversation between James and commissioners revolved around filling those six vacant positions, one of which James said had been filled this month. Commissioner Todd Yates pointed out that six vacancies out of 92 full-time positions was a rate much better than many other departments.
James acknowledged that the turnover rate was “pretty good,” but said hidden obstacles provide challenges for his department.
“What hurts us is the folks that are out on [family medical leave act] or worker’s comp, because that’s a slot you have to fill every day,” James said. “By the time you cover the FMLA or worker’s comp spots and people that are out on vacation, then your sick call-ins that come an hour or two before shift, that’s where you get hurt.”
James also addressed response times with the board. In April, the average “out of chute” time for emergency calls was 63 seconds. Non-emergency calls averaged 58 seconds. The following month saw emergency calls decrease to 34 seconds and non-emergency calls average 56 seconds in May.
“Out-of-chute” measures the time elapsed between when the truck’s pager goes off as communications dispatches the call and when the truck is en route.
En-route time to the scene for emergency calls averaged seven minutes, 24 seconds for emergency calls in April. In May, that time went to eight minutes, 11 seconds. For non-emergency calls in April and May, those times were five minutes, 57 seconds and 10 minutes, 35 seconds, respectively.
Increases in fire investigations continue to grow, which staff members say will necessitate an escalation of part-time hours to allow for time to conduct public education on fire prevention. The increase in call volume is attributed to an uptick in the county’s population in recent years.
Staff writer Daniel Kennedy can be reached at 336-888-3578, or at email@example.com.