Staffing ongoing concern for EMS

Maintaining an ideal balance of volunteers always has been a struggle for Seneca County EMS, says EMS Director Ken Majors.

In an effort to mend the problem, Majors, who returned to the county as full-time EMS director this month, said he recently has been active in going to townships, job fairs and other public relations events to seek more support and more volunteers.

“We’ve always struggled to keep a good level of staffing,” he said.

Majors said finding volunteers to fill day-time hours has been the hardest. The districts facing low-staffing issues include Green Springs, Attica and Bettsville, he said.

“We’ve always had the same question, ‘How do we get more during the day?'” he said.

Majors said he’s recently gotten seven or eight people interested in volunteering, and two EMTs were added to the roster last week.

“It’s a people thing, we need more people involved. If we could get 10 more EMTs a year, our system would be great,” he said “And not lose more than that, then we’d really be golden.”

There about 130 volunteers spread across seven districts, Majors said. Ideally, that number would be 150.

Majors said the county also has 12 paid Echo unit responders. Echo unit was created by Majors in 2008 when he previously served as EMS director. It is a paramedic unit that responds to every squad run during the day.

“The Echo unit is still our go-to guy during the day,” he said. “That’s still going strong.”

Echo unit responds to all calls, but if it’s not needed, a scene commander can tell the Echo unit not to respond.

“It definitely helps with a short-staffed day,” he said.

Other ideas that have been tossed around in the county to help staffing issues include combining EMS districts and also paying volunteers.

Majors said bringing paid people into a volunteer position, however, could be risky.

He said if volunteers know paid people are coming, then it may turn them off from the job.

“We’re a volunteer system and we’re very proud of it, and I think we can survive on volunteer system,” he said. “Our (volunteers) are very proud, community-oriented people.”

Majors said another possibility is to adapt Bascom’s system, in which volunteers are paid by the township through a levy.

“It’s a small levy that helps pay for personnel costs,” Majors said.

He said that system seems to be successful, as Bascom is currently doing well with volunteers.

“If it works, then let’s think about it,” he said.

Majors said Seneca County EMS is getting the job done, but having extra volunteers would be an advantage.

“There’s no quick fix, we have to put the leg-work in and get people involved. We have to be proactive,” he said.

“I’m extremely proud of all of the EMTs. They’re some of the hardest working people I know,” he said. “These guys put their community in front of themselves. If we could spread (the volunteers) out evenly, that would be awesome.”

Majors said the county is always looking for volunteers, and schooling for the volunteers is paid by the county. Basic EMT training is about 150 hours and it can be completed in four months, he said. Classes usually are two evenings a week.

Classes are at Vanguard-Sentinel Career and Technology Center in either Fremont or Tiffin. Volunteers have rotations in the emergency room and in an ambulance, and their required immunizations also are paid by the county.

“We ask for two years of volunteer service in the community,” he said. “After that, with their certification, then they can get a paying job.”

Anyone interested in volunteering should call Majors at (419) 447-0266.