EMT's working for DeKalb EMS wanting to become paramedics will get some financial assistance from the county, if they agree to continue working for the county operated ambulance service for at least three years.
Anyone who accepts the funding and doesn't work for at least three years will have to reimburse the county.
EMS director Chip Cook made the request of the county commission Monday night and it was approved.
Cook says paramedics are needed in order for the ambulance service to maintain it's "A" rating."DeKalb EMS is a Class-A service. The state classifies us through the Department of Health as a Class A service. In other words, we provide ALS care, advanced life support, to our patients. In order for us to maintain that Class A rating, we have got to have paramedics on staff. Basically, what the state rules say is that every ambulance that goes on an emergency call needs to have a paramedic on it. Out of all the calls that we run every year, the state only allows us 5% (calls) to not have a paramedic on."
" One of our goals with the ambulance service is to get our EMT's trained up to the paramedic level. In order for us to do that, we need to, if we can, finance their training at Tennessee Tech. This cost is about $4,000. That's what it's estimated to be this year. That includes the tuition, books, and the other testing fees that they have to go through. In exchange for us paying for their training over the next year, the employee signs a three year contract to stay employed at DeKalb EMS and there are certain stipulations in that contract. If they resign then they pay back the county all the money that was spent, pro-rated based on the amount of time they worked."
"We have an employee that is very well qualified and I would like to send him to paramedic school. Part of doing that is paying him while he's in school on the days that he is scheduled to work. He'll go to class two days a week. This works out to three days a month, which is a total of 24 hours per month that we'll be paying him his regular pay rate to go to school."
"It won't affect our full time pay status in the budget. It's already in the budget. We've also budgeted in-service training to pay for the school. We did that in this current budget that we're operating on now."
"During that 24 hour shift that they are scheduled to work and have to be in class, they will come straight to work to finish out their shift, after the class is over. While they're gone, I'll be covering their shifts for them so there won't be any additional costs as far as having any extra people coming in and covering for them. There may be a case where I have to be at a meeting or something like that I can't change. In that case, we would use part time people like we do now."
I ran some figures on it to give you an idea. It'll be 24 hours a month and over a year when you calculate the amount of time, we're looking at 9% of their salary is what we're paying them. Out of their total salary, it's only 9% and it's not increased from what's already in the budget. In other words, It's just like they would be at work."
Meanwhile, the county commission also granted Cook's request to write-off more than $4,000 in uncollectible debts. "On these write-offs, all these patients are deceased, and all their insurance benefits have paid all they're going to pay. We also have copies of their death certificates or obituaries on file for the auditor. We have checked with the probate court as to whether they have filed an estate and whether they own any property in DeKalb or surrounding areas."