By PJ Martin
The October meeting of the Barren-Metcalfe County Emergency Medical Services Board of Directors was held on the 26th in the Metcalfe County fiscal courtroom. The only member absent was Neil Thornberry who was attending a meeting in Lexington.
Executive Director Joe Middleton advised that the Paramedic Internship Program has resulted in one new Paramedic and four others still in training. He noted, “We put them as a 3rd person on 5 different ambulances and then have to back fill their spots with other staff, PRN staff, and fill in those areas so that we could provide the most ideal training program for them.”
Middleton explained that there is a Paramedic shortage across this area and statewide so the training was implemented to assist the service with the problem.
He reported that as of October 25th the service had 43 of the 45 budgeted positions filled. Currently, the base rate for an EMT is $15.25, and top out is $17.25. The base rate for Paramedics is $18.25 and top out is $23.
It is in the budget for a 3% (± 54¢ ) raise based on evaluation, however, Middleton proposed a $1 raise (market adjustment) for all full-time staff, supervisors, and below (no administrative staff) to begin the first pay period in December instead and use surplus monies to cover the $14,000 difference.
The board approved that raise and also approved the plans to pay out the remaining $32,637 ARPA money to current employees as a retention bonus. The plan for the payout will be presented at the next meeting.
A former full-time employee Jonathan Langkabel requested to speak at the meeting. He is a Critical Care Paramedic with 7 years of EMS experience, 4 years of Behavioral Health experience, and 3 years of Emergency Room experience.
“I wanted to come here and clear some rumors that Barren-Metcalfe is fully staffed. I don’t feel that it is. To my recollection we lost 20 full-time staff members in the last approximately16 months or so, as many as 4 full-time staff turning in their notices in one day. I was among them,” stated Langkabel.
He proceeded to ask why Paramedics and EMTs are leaving when there is a shortage and why the service isn’t asking why.
He stated that currently, Barren-Metcalfe has 9 Paramedics, not in FTO or leadership roles and only 4 have critical care endorsements.
He questioned if the rumored extra crew had truly been hired and if so, why is a 2nd in command working a 25-hour shift on his Saturdays off? Also, why has the 13-hour cover truck changed from advanced life support to basic life support? Plus, why is one truck at the airport station responsible for 63.6% of the total daily run volume?
He then noted that the 2 full-time Paramedics stationed at the airport feel it is unsafe to have the run volume they do and often go with little or no sleep during the 25-hour shift.
He also pointed out that Barren-Metcalfe workers who contracted Covid were told to use their own personal time for recovery while the Coronavirus Care Act allotted funds for the paid time off.
Langkabel who contracted Covid in the line of duty in November 2020, stated that he was told to use his personal time or file workers comp and received 66% of his normal salary.
Glasgow PD and Fire Dept. used Coronavirus Care Act funds for employees who became sick with Covid. He stated that EMS workers were told they were exempt and the same for Covid premium pay. “We didn’t qualify.” He noted that they did finally receive Covid pay in the form of 3 checks over the year, the last being this December, however, thinks that it is connected to retention and does not see it as a thank you, but coercion.
Finally, Langkebel asked, “What are we going to do to keep our talent and build our talent locally?”
There were no comments from the board members after Langkabel’s statements.
Executive Treasurer Shawn Estes presented the September finance report and claims. The total cash receipts from patient and GEMT (Medicaid and Medicare) payments, Air Methods, grants, loans, and partners totaled $486,987. The total expenses for the month including loan payments were $477,170.
The monthly contributions from each of the partners in September were TJ Samson $31,227, Barren Co. $59,863, Metcalfe Co. $33,819, and GEMT $42,000, totaling $124,909.
GEMT or Ground Emergency Medical Transport Supplemental Reimbursement Program uses Federal Medicaid dollars to help offset the cost of providing emergency ambulance and transport for Medicaid patients.
Treasurer Estes then presented the board with three options to pay for the ambulances purchased with option #3 being approved to use surplus CD monies as payment.
The board went into a short closed session to discuss property and returned with no action taken.
The next meeting of the board is scheduled for December 14th at 4 p.m. at the Barren County fiscal courtroom.