Grand County Emergency Medical Services had a busy January with 77 calls, more than double what they saw in January 2016. The increase is a dramatic example of a trend that EMS has seen for the past several years. In 2017, EMS had a six percent increase in calls over 2016.
“We didn’t really have an off-season this year,” EMS Director Andy Smith said. “I think a lot of people felt that. Our off-seasons are not off-seasons anymore so the time that you could count on it being a little bit slower is not happening.”
EMS Assistant Director Will Barnhardt said that the growing call volume has been a burden for the agency.
“The increase in calls has actually really put a stress on the agency because the majority of our employees are actually paid on call, which means they have normal full-time jobs and they’re doing this basically to serve the community,” Barnhardt said.
Barnhardt said that entry-level EMTs are paid $14 per hour, the minimum wage for county employees. While full-time employees are paid for all 12 hours of their shifts, others are paid only one or two hours per 12-hour shift if they are not called out. If a call comes out, then they are paid for the hours they spend on the call.
“Imagine working your normal job, agreeing to cover from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. to help out your community, then getting called out at 10 p.m., going to Salt Lake, getting back at 8 a.m. and trying to go to work,” Barnhardt said. “[The increasing number of calls] has forced the move to more full-time employees ... because we’re burning out a lot of our community paid-on-call staff. Unfortunately that’s also increased the complexity of the organization and the taxpayer burden.”
Smith said that the rising number of calls is part of the reason it was important to form a special service district.
“As requests for ambulance services and emergency medical care continue to rise, it takes more involvement from a board or a district to help plan for the future. That’s essentially the purpose of a special service district in our case. We are looking for heavily invested and interested people who want to ensure that EMS service in the county performs at a high level and has a long future and is sustainable,” Smith said.