Paramedics ask Duplin County leaders for pay raise

DUPLIN COUNTY, NC (WITN) - Paramedics asked leaders for a pay raise, as they deal with an industry-wide staffing shortage that could lead to lower quality patient care.

Duplin County Emergency Medical Services made 4 proposals to county commissioners at a meeting Monday, with the highest raise set at a 17% increase. The county pays about 3 dollars less, on average than neighboring counties with similar populations.

“Right now I’m doing this because I enjoy it, but once we have our child I may have to do something completely different or go to another county,” said paramedic Cody Herring.

He added, “I really want to stay here because this is where I’m from. This is where my family is from, but I may not be able to do that financially.”

Herring is one of Duplin county’s 23 paramedics. They need 40 to be fully staffed.

Wages haven’t been competitive for several years, and the results are surfacing now. Paramedics often work 36-hour shifts in Duplin County. It is an industry-standard, experts say, for paramedics to work 2 or 3 jobs to support their families.

“Where we're at right now is not a sustainable model. We know that eventually people are going to get burnt out and they’re going to quit working, and we’re going to be in a worse bind than we are now,” said Emergency Medical Services Director Robert Houston.

Houston added, there’s never been a situation of compromised patient care, but they’re pushed to their limits. Herring said, there have been occasions where 911 callers waited more than 30 minutes for a first responder to arrive.

Duplin County paramedics’ starting pay is $14.95 an hour. A 17% pay increase would bring wages to roughly $17 an hour, still slightly less than nearby counties with higher call volumes.

Leaders say lower-quality patient care is not an option. County commissioners are expected to come back with a response to the proposals within 30 days.