Dorchester County EMS to cut shifts in half, hire more paramedics due to high call volume

Published: Jun. 17, 2015 at 10:07 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 17, 2015 at 10:41 PM EDT
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DORCHESTER COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - Dorchester County officials say their growing community has caused major strain on one of their agencies.

As part of the 2016 budget approved this week, Dorchester County's emergency response crews will have their shifts cut down from 24 hours to 12.

EMS director Doug Warren says this change is vital to the safety of his staff and county residents.

Starting July 1, EMS crews serving Dorchester County won't be working 24-hours shifts.

"They are absolutely elated," said EMS Director, Doug Warren.

Over the last four years, the population has increased by nearly 12,000 people in Dorchester County. Warren says that's caused emergency calls to go up by 2,000 in one year.

"We're going to run nearly 18,000 calls this fiscal year," said Warren.

Warren says things have changed since their agency was first created.

"When we were a sleepy little rural community people could come to work, work a 24-hour shift and know they were going to have some down time,"

Now, Warren says their call volume is so high, the EMS crews are getting little to no breaks during their 24-shifts.

"It's not safe for them to be doing that," said Warren. "Fatigued employees have become a real issue."

According to the budget report by County Administrator, Jason Ward, converting to 12-hour shifts means EMS needs to hire 16 more paramedics. It's expected to cost of $1,191,052.

County council Chairman David Chinnis says that will come out to about $33 more in property taxes on a $150,000 dollar home.

At Monday's county council meeting, some council members expressed hesitancy is approving the budget.

"Is this the time to be asking for a tax increase?" said Council member Carroll Duncan.

However, ultimately a majority agreed there was no way around it.

"Enough is enough, we have got to do something about this," said Council member William Hearn.

"Is it about the tax dollar or do you want to be safe?," said Council member Willie Davis.

Dorchester County is already accepting applications to fill those 16 new positions. Here's the link.

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