Lee county examines EMS structure - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Lee county examines EMS structure

James Howell James Howell
Bobby Watkins Bobby Watkins

While privatizing Lee County emergency medical services is still on the table, county leaders are looking at different options to streamline operations.

Today, commissioners got input from fire and EMS leaders. One option, which would change the paramedic schedule, was met with opposition by the dozen paramedics in attendance. Most of the paramedics and firefighters in Lee County are cross-trained to do both jobs.

"In this day and age where we want the best bang for the buck we've have to train people to catch the call," said Fire Chief James Howell.

Now, to best use the bucks Lee County has for emergency services, one option commissioners are considering is to trim the paramedic schedule a day to 24 hours on and 48 hours off, a schedule that's becoming more common for EMS departments in the state.

EMS Director Bobby Watkins says "Right now we are 24-72, if we move to 24-48 that's when people will have to make a decision on what service to work for."

That's because 20 of the 26 paramedics who work for Lee County full-time also work for Dougherty County, full-time. Watkins says, "You are going to lose people.  Yes, I think we will lose people, only because we can't work it."

Lee County's Fire Chief says that the 24-48 schedule is one that the firefighters use, and he acknowledged a change would not be popular, and people might leave. "I hope not. But I want people dedicated to the job."

Howell also says a shift change is better than the alternative. "If they outsource these jobs they are certainly gone, I don't want to see that."

The Commissioners say they are in no rush to make any decision and say they will spend the next 60 days talking with EMS and other stakeholders before any changes are made to services, if any are made at all.

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