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Richland Co. EMS shortage presented to council

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Columbia, S.C. (WACH) -- The issue of the EMS shortage in Richland County was brought to council members at Tuesday's Development and Services Committee Meeting.

The director of Richland County's EMS department, Michael Byrd, presented his concerns over the growing problem of the shortage in the county, and its implications for not only the current workers, but also the safety of those living in the county.

"Our mission doesn't change, nor can we put off our response to all emergency calls, regardless of staffing or budget," said Byrd. "But we have fewer and fewer people selecting EMS as a career. This [issue] has made it harder for us to recruit and maintain workers because other EMS have less workload and better pay than we do."

Byrd cited the primary reason for the shortage is lower compensation, making the Richland County EMS division less competitive to other markets.

He says this has created problems with response times, sometimes taking up to 45 minutes for EMS staff to reach an emergency situation in certain locations. He also noted that most employees are unable to even take adequate breaks, and are overworked and underpaid for the level of stress that comes in the field.

Byrd says the department has lost almost 100 employees in just two years.

Though nearly all council members agreed that the issue is pressing, some disagreed with providing more money to the department, in lieu of coming up with other ways to address the issue.

However, Councilman Seth Rose says money should be the priority.

"This isn't something that can be addressed in next year's budget or the year after that," said Rose.
"It needed to be addressed now...For me, personally, I wasnt too fond of the positions we need to take the stress off of our current force. He said it, they're overworked, they're responding to too many calls."

The council motioned for Byrd to present more intuitive figures and monetary amounts needed to alleviate the issue, to be presented at the next council meeting.


TONIGHT COUNCIL MEMBERS HEARING CONCERNS FROM THE DIRECTOR OF RICHLAND COUNTY'S EMS DEPARTMENT.

HE STRESSED THAT IMMEDIATE FINANCIAL ATTENTION IS NECESSARY TO IMPROVE SAFETY.

THE DEPARTMENT HAS LOST ALMOST 100 EMPLOYEES IN JUST TWO YEARS.

BYRD SAYS THE SHORTAGE HAS CREATED STRESS FOR EMS WORKERS, WITH THE HIGH CALL VOLUMES, LONGER RESPONSE TIMES, AND LOW MORALE.

WHILE SOME COUNCILMEMBERS SAY MORE MONEY ISN'T NECESSARILY THE ANSWER OTHERS SAY FUNDING SHOULD BE A PRIORITY.

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