MOUNT GILEAD — Morrow County’s Emergency Medical Services (EMS) has operated on a 2 mill levy that is renewed every 5 years since 1972. This fall they are asking for a renewal of the 2-mill levy and an additional 1-mill levy for five years.
EMS Chief Jeff Sparks noted that they continue to have increases in EMS runs, but have had no equivalent increase in levy funding. Sparks said the biggest reason they are asking for the additional 1 mill levy is to keep personnel.
“We hire them and train them and many go to one of the neighboring counties where they can get a much better wage and healthcare benefits,” Sparks said.
Several EMTs and a paramedic took some time off their 24 hour shift to talk about their work and training in Morrow County.
“People probably don’t realize what our work is like,” said paramedic Jessica Shaw who has worked in the county for six years.
“We work a 24-hour shift and then we are off 48 hours. However, if there is a need for an additional person we are mandated to work another 12 hours, which makes a total of 36 hours,” Shaw said. And since the staff of 30 is down to 25, that means they are working extra hours more frequently.
Shaw explained that the EMTs work in pairs at the five stations in the county that include the Main Station in Mount Gilead, Cardington, Marengo, Iberia and Johnsville. Iberia is occasionally unmanned due to the shortage in EMTs.
People sometimes ask what they are doing at Kroger in their EMS uniform in the middle of the day. They are still on their 24- or 36-hour shift getting groceries that they cook at the station, or possibly getting a sandwich at McDonald’s during a long shift. They pay for their own meals.
“Regardless of the time or the emergency, we will be there for you,” said Deanna Delaney who is both an EMT and a dispatcher.
“We will be there whether it is a stubbed toe, or a stroke,” said EMT Rachel Tomlinson after she told about a recent call at 2 a.m. “We are committed to getting the best possible care for each person and getting them to the best facility for their needs.”
“As many as three quarters of EMTs in Morrow County work at two or three additional part-time jobs to pay the bills,” Tomlinson said. The extra jobs they hold are due to the fact that EMS wages in Morrow County are lower than any of the surrounding counties. They also receive no healthcare or retirement benefits.
In addition, EMTs and Paramedics pay for basic training of 170 hours at Tri-Rivers or Grant Medical Center and Advanced EMTs have an added 150 hours with Paramedics having 900 hours. They are also required to have continuing education to retain their certification.
Commissioner Warren Davis said the EMT hourly wages are barely above minimum wage. He said they can work at a fast food restaurant and make more money there than as a trained EMS employee in Morrow County.
Sparks shows great pride in his EMS employees and department. They now have a response time under 10 minutes for strokes and heart attacks.
“We want to build up a highly trained staff,” Sparks said. “I want them to have a vested interest right here in Morrow County.
On the Tuesday, Nov. 5 ballot in Morrow County:
• Renewal 2 mills tax levy for Morrow County EMS for 5 years. For the purpose of ambulance service and emergency medical service. To begin in 2020, due in 2021.
• Additional 1 mill tax levy for 5 years to begin in 2020, first due in 2021 for the purpose of ambulance and emergency medical service. Cost is $35 per $100,000 property.