Morgan County faces paramedic shortage due to less competitive wages

WARTBURG (WATE) – The head of Morgan County’s emergency service department says he’s facing a shortage of workers because the county can’t afford to offer competitive salaries.

Saving lives and rushing to emergencies is a career for first responders in Morgan County but starting pay is only $9.63 an hour. Two employees in the last three weeks have left Morgan County EMS and the outlook for replacing them is not good.

“I’ve not had anyone, a medic, to apply in over a year,” said director Lawrence Potter.

Morgan County EMS Director Lawrence Potter
Morgan County EMS Director Lawrence Potter

Pay seems to be the reason. Potter says Morgan County EMS is and has been short staffed.

“Other counties that are larger and have a better revenue base are able to pay more. We’re about $3.50 to $4 behind all the other counties,” said Potter.

To get by, Morgan County EMS may have to park ambulances, which may hurt response times. Residents say it’s an unnerving thought.

“What are they supposed to do? They have to help you,” said homeowner Becca Swint.

It’s up to county commissioners to find a solution.

“Doing a wheel tax which would be specifically for emergency services,” said Potter.

Morgan County EMS workers run roughly 3,000 calls a year. Officials and residents hope something happens soon and not at the expense of care to the community.

“They do so much and for them to not make much more than a fast food restaurant, that, that’s unbelievable,” said Swint.

Commissioners will decide at their August meeting whether to increase county employees pay by four percent. At least one commissioner supports that move.

Paramedics receive a small pay increase each year, but after 20 years of service at Morgan County EMS the top pay they can earn is roughly $11 an hour. Potter says they have a mutual aid agreement with surrounding counties when staffing becomes an issue.

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