AMBULANCE MEETING MINUTES
28 JANUARY 2022
Chairman David Wamble opened the meeting asking Tommy Pollard to offer a prayer and lead the pledge. Minutes of 22 October 2021 were motioned for approval by Terry Harwell and seconded by Joyce Woodard and were approved.
First Agenda Item – Introduction of Critical Care Supervisor, Drew Laxson, who has been with the organization for 12 Years, and is also supportive of the IT efforts as well as general appliance repair. Roy Griggs, EMS Director, introduced the other Ambulance Department attendees as well, Danny Hardy, Dustin Blade, and Chris Morgan.
Second Agenda Item – Retention Pay. County Executive Melissa Greene discussed the criticality of the Giles County ambulance services, noting the problems, especially retaining and attracting staff due to COVID, and noting the problems are not only local but also state, nation, and global problems. Examples were given of a typical capability being five ambulances and now there are only three. Staffing remains the problem, resulting in the remaining employed staff being overworked, and given competitive salaries in surrounding counties being underpaid. She met recently with Roy and others to determine the best way to retain and to attract new staffing. They first discussed insurance offerings but those typically take quite a while to implement. Her recommendation would be, that for every month full-time only ambulance employees remain within the Giles County workforce, they would be due an additional stipend of $500. Based on serving the full 12 months in the fiscal year ending June 2022, they would receive $6000, or for every month they stay during that period of time would receive the $500 per month for that shorter period. According to months worked this would be retroactive from July 2021 and through June 2022. There are 11-12 people at this time this would affect. Because of a shortage of staff, the resulting cost of budgeted amount for salaries is actually lower, as well as the cost of two less ambulances being available. This reduced actual vs budgeted could potentially cover part of this retention cost. Melissa recommended $200K be set aside from the fund balance. Terry Harwell moved that the recommendation be accepted, setting aside $200k for retention pay, with Joseph seconding. Motion was approved.
Third Agenda Item – Building Update. Melissa stated that on 7 February the Baptist Association will hold a meeting to decide if they want to sell or not. There will be a second meeting by the Association to discuss pricing and other details. Even if that decision is made by the Association, the County is under no obligation to follow through on purchasing this property. Given a substantially high price, the county might decide it would be better to buy somewhere else and build a new building designed more for the service. There is some discussion that the Association might like to keep the building and 1.7 acres, selling the remaining lot of 8.2 acres. Due to the topology those acres may not be appropriate building sites. On being asked about a Plan B, Melissa stated there are two more properties being reviewed.
Chairman Wamble asked if the ambulance attendees might like to add anything. Their comments re-emphasized the criticality of the shortages, e.g. can’t do hospital transport, and citizens at home at risk; and another some want to stay in Giles County but they can easily find other jobs with higher salaries. Roy said they had met with the hospital board since they have new staff and Roy wanted to help them understand how the ambulance service works. He said in his 40 years he had not seen it be this critical. On a good note, they had hired three new EMTs but they will need significant training. A discussion on using some people as “just drivers” but maintaining caution, for example letting start on small trips. Chairman Wamble mentioned that losing some of the transport means losing more funds since that particular effort does return more “profit”. David Adams gave examples across other counties and also other organizations such as Frito-Lay and drivers. His comment: “we might wake up hungry” emphasized the shortage of personnel situation for all. Roy did mention that the Medical Director, Dr. Fite, is aware of the situation and that it may take longer, but they will do everything possible to provide this needed service.
Chairman Wamble asked if any new business and Christy Hobbs, EMS Administration, mentioned the health insurance; that she knew of at least two others who would come to work here except for the lack of reasonable family insurance premiums. Chris Morgan, another Ambulance employee, said there are not enough going to EMT schools; when he went there was a waiting list; now the classes aren’t full. Many retiring but not enough to replace. Roy mentioned in the paramedic training they only had 5 not dedicated to return to their own counties, and of those 5, eleven counties need them. He did say that Motlow State Community College is looking to have classes and that he has been in discussion with Tn College of Applied Technology (TCAT.) However, getting those included into their curriculum takes considerable time and accreditation. Christy and then Stoney Jackson mentioned the fact that just raising salaries doesn’t always mean retention since other more affluent counties simply raise their rates so as to retain their own staff. Stoney mentioned other fields where the same thing happens, i.e. teachers and police force.
Chris Morgan suggested a sign on bonus, stay for 3 years before receiving. This suggestion is due to an often-seen scenario where you do the training and the individual leaves for more money. Stoney strongly suggested, on an insurance suggestion, that the state legislation body be encouraged, Rep Clay Doggett in particular. Consolidation of school employees with county employees so as to reduce the premium would help since currently school employees have a much lower rate due to number of employees and county rates again to number of employees are much higher, approximately 20% higher.
A motion to adjourn was made by Joyce Woodard, seconded by David Adams and was approved.
Attendees: Committee Chairman David Wamble, Joyce Woodard, David Adams, Joseph Sutton, Terry Harwell, Duane Jones, Brad Butler (absent); Other Commissioners Stoney Jackson, Tim Risner, Tommy Pollard, Harold Brooks, Gayle Jones, Erin Curry, Tracy Wilburn, Judy Pruett, Larry Worsham (Zoom Mike Cesarini and Bill Cary)