Aug 23, 2013 - By Eric Blom Staff WriterThe transition of county ambulance employees to full-time status is taking shape.
Officials have been discussing the potential change since it was proposed in May.
"I met with each person interested in going from part time to full time," interim ambulance director Todd Smith said at an Aug. 20 Fremont County Commission meeting. "We should be able to start up November 1."
The county board in July approved a $2.8 million budget for the department that called for changing the status of 26 employees to full-time. The new budget also provides for an ambulance crew to be stationed in Dubois, which would require around-the-clock staffing.
Currently, many employees work near 40 hours a week for the department but are classified as part-time and do not receive benefits.
Former ambulance department director Lauri Wempen originally proposed making those employees officially full-time to help with a shortage of personnel and to allow them to commit to the ambulance department rather than balance working as a medic with another job.
She said the federal Affordable Care Act would soon require the county to offer benefits to the employees even if they technically remained part-time.
Many ambulance employees were interested in the switch, though Smith said some preferred to remain part-time
He asked everyone who worked with the ambulance department if they were interested in a full-time job, he said at the Aug. 20 meeting. He also asked whether they were volunteers or part-time workers and whether they lived in urban areas or in the country.
No one from "outlying" areas was interested, Smith said, nor was any emergency medical technician from the Dubois region.
Smith said EMTs there cited other job opportunities as a reason not to move to full-time.
"I have had some interest from the drivers once they become EMTs," he said.
The emergency medical services group also is taking steps to fill its vacant director position after Wempen resigned in July.
Smith presented a draft of a job description to guide the county's search for a new ambulance chief.
Commissioner Keja Whiteman questioned a list of emergency medical service qualifications the job description would require a new director to have.
"What I'm looking for is someone who is a great and dynamic administrator, who has creative budget ideas, who can work for and apply for grants," she said. "One's not more important than the other, but it's rare that a person has both (emergency medical and administrative skills)."
Smith stood by the list of the emergency medical service certifications, but he said he will look at other ambulance agencies who have a similar structure to see what skills they require in an administrator.
"If you don't understand the health care you're expecting your people to deliver, you can't manage them," he said.
Other county board members recommended reorganizing the job description and eliminating repetition.
Commissioner Larry Allen, the liaison to the ambulance department, said he and Smith would revise the job description to incorporate other commissioners' suggestions and bring the document back to the county board.
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