Staffing shortages, increase in calls strain emergency services

ASHEBORO — A staff shortage is a concern for Randolph County’s emergency services, department director Donovan Davis said.

In a report to the county commissioners at the October meeting, Davis provided details on the challenges facing his department, particularly with call loads increasing.

EMS staffing has become a concern, with Davis telling the commissioners that staff members are often frustrated and / or exhausted.

There are 18 vacancies throughout the department. That includes eight paramedic positions.

Because of that, some vacation requests have been denied, adding to declining morale.

“The reason is because of our staffing,” he said.

At times, the emergency services department has shut down some ambulance shifts because of staff shortages. Davis said there’s a statewide paramedic shortage.

The county has five full-time openings among telecommunicators. Entering October, recent data provided by Davis showed that the call center receives about 1,500 calls a month.

At the current pace, the department will handle 4,500 more calls than last year.

To accommodate this increase, Davis said another ambulance crew should be added to the department. There hasn’t been additional ambulance staffing added since 2018.

Davis said a new ambulance in circulation would be best served in the Randleman or Archdale areas.

There also are various transportation components to the ambulance pick-ups.

Randolph County EMS will receive an ambulance truck as part of the state’s contract with FEMA, which was extended last week. Guilford County and Forsyth County were already receiving ambulance vehicles from the federal agency. Guilford has two, each staffed by two people, and Forsyth had three. The program is helping to cope with a shortage of drivers and record high number of emergency calls. The ambulance truck will be stationed in Asheboro but service the entire county.

Of calls related to COVID cases this year, there have been 350 more calls than in 2020 through September for a total of 984.

Of the most-recent calls that required transportation through September, 166 went to Randolph Hospital and 244 to other hospitals. These were patients with COVID symptoms or having tested positive for COVD.

An out-of-county transport takes an average of two hours, Davis said.

Randolph Hospital isn’t always capable of accepting more patients.

“It’s basically to share the load,” Davis said of what amounts to rotating the destinations. “Most of these patients are going to have to be admitted.”

Meanwhile, the emergency services department was honored by the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners with an award under the Local Government Federal Credit Union program. The Randolph County group received one of the Excellence in Innovation Awards based on its approach in opioid epidemic outreach. Davis said it was a collaborative effort.


By Bob Sutton

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