Oct 26, 2021
Low Wage Offers Drive Medics out of Okaloosa County, FL
Okaloosa Losing EMS Professionals
Record Number of Paramedics Resign Citing Stagnate Wages
(OKALOOSA COUNTY, FL) — Okaloosa County EMS first responders, members of the International Association of EMTs and Paramedics (IAEP) Local 134, are raising the alarm this week as low wages continue to drive employees out by the dozen. To date, nearly a third of the EMS professionals employed by Okaloosa have either left or are pending departure. With fewer and fewer medics on the road, supervisors often fail to field a full complement of ambulances and rely on those remaining to cover an overwhelming number of vacant shifts. Negotiations to raise the wage rate between county and union representatives have since slowed to a crawl as commissioners refuse to recognize the imminent retention threat.
“Right now, wages are the problem.” said IAEP National Representative Michael Marasco. “County commissioners have had every opportunity to resolve these issues, yet they continue to ignore the facts.” Commonly attributed to the national labor shortage in EMS, paramedics and EMTs are spoiled for choice in today’s market. Often lured by job offers which include cash signing bonuses, increased paid-leave time and all manner of attractive subsidies for housing or transportation, EMS workers are understandably walking away from lackluster offers like that of Okaloosa’s commissioners.
“Our proposals are intended to address the recruitment and retention problem so that EMS professionals are once again compensated well enough to choose a career with Okaloosa County EMS.” Marasco continued. Members of Okaloosa County EMS report that department staffing levels remain at a quickly diminishing 56 employees, while a fully staffed department would require 80 total.
“Simply put, these numbers should scare anybody,” Marasco says. “We are hopeful that the Board of County Commissions are also scared by this high turnover. We need a partner at the table who understands we are trying to solve a problem that will save lives in their community.”
Talks between the parties are set to resume this week with a focus on bringing Okaloosa County EMS wages up to competitive levels.
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