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Somerset-Pulaski County EMS dealing with low morale due to staffing shortage

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Increasing starting pay or creating an "ambulance tax district" have been discussed as possible solutions for the EMS employee shortage

Officials with the Somerset-Pulaski County Emergency Medical Service are concerned about low departmental staffing due to heavy workloads and poor pay.

David Sparks, a member of the advisory board, said members are seeking employment at emergency departments in neighboring counties because of higher wages at those locations.

“We are currently 10 down employees but we have been down about 8 to 12 down for quite some time – months, maybe a year now,” Sparks said. “We run about 13,000 runs a year, they can go to an adjoining county and make two or 3,000 runs for three or four dollars starting pay. I think one example I quoted, we started out at ‘16-and-a-quarter-an-hour’, they can go to Green County, which is a very small county, and make $24 an hour.”

The emergency medical service is operated by the city of Somerset which sets the salary for EMS workers. At a city council meeting on July 25, Pulaski County and Somerset officials acknowledged they are aware of the staffing shortage and are discussing common-sense solutions. One solution could be raising the starting pay for employees or creating pay incentives for employees who agree to multi-year contracts with the county, according to Sparks. An “ambulance tax district” has also been suggested, which would create tax revenue for the EMS department and be run by an elected board.

Sparks says establishing the tax district could raise revenue significantly for the Emergency Service Department.

“The statute allows you to establish a tax up to $10 per thousand as a maximum, Sparks said. “So looking at the property values in Pulaski County that would bring in an extra $3- $4 million dollars a year into our budget.”

The Somerset-Pulaski County EMS Advisory Board plans to continue further discussion about solutions for EMS in the coming weeks.

Jacob Martin is a Reporter at WKU Public Radio. He joined the newsroom from Kansas City, where he covered the city’s underserved communities and general assignments at NPR member station, KCUR. A Louisville native, he spent seven years living in Brooklyn, New York before moving back to Kentucky. Email him at Jacob.martin@wku.edu.