Sumner County EMS field employees could receive $1,500 bonus amid staffing shortage

SUMNER COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) — Sumner County Emergency Medical Services (EMS) is 14 field employees short with many staff members leaving for surrounding, higher-paying agencies, according to the chief. County leaders hope a one-time bonus will help ease the problem.

Sumner County EMS is the lowest paying EMS agency in Middle Tennessee whose employees work the 24 hours on, 72 hours off shift, Chief John Michael Poss said. According to the department’s social media, Sumner County offers nearly $49,000 a year for basic emergency medical technicians and a little more than $65,000 a year for paramedics.

Poss offered a comparison of the numbers for county commissioners.

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“Our biggest competitor right now is the Nashville Fire Department,” Poss said. “The hours they work compared to us, their EMTs and paramedics are working about 700 hours less per year for 20-plus [thousand] more total yearly compensation, so that puts us in a really tough market.”

“We should be ashamed that we’re paying $65,000 and Robertson County is paying $73,000,” Commissioner Merrol Hyde added.

Poss initially asked the budget committee to consider a salary study, which would result in raises for EMS staff. However, the budget committee agreed they should act sooner, voting to move a proposal to the full commission that would offer EMS field workers a one-time bonus ranging from $750 to $1,500, depending on the employee’s experience with the department.

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On Monday, April 15, Sumner County commissioners amended the proposal and passed first reading to provide a one-time, $1,500 bonus for all EMS field employees. They said the money would hold EMS staff over until commissioners meet to work on a budget next month, which would likely include EMS pay raises.

“My only concern is there’s not any kind of language that would prevent someone from getting this bonus tomorrow and leaving that same day,” Commissioner J. Wes Wynne said.

Wynne proposed requiring EMS employees who leave the department before the next budget to pay back the bonus, but Sumner County’s financial director said that would be next to impossible to track with taxes.

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Others added if the commission doesn’t act now, the staffing shortage will only grow.

“If this bonus is not given to these people, they’re going to leave anyhow,” Commissioner Terry Wright said. “They’re not asking for a whole lot. They’re just asking for a pittance to try to keep these people for the safety and security of this county.”

The proposal to provide a $1,500, one-time bonus for EMS field employees passed 21 to 0. The measure would cost a total of nearly $200,000, which would come from Sumner County’s General Fund.

Commissioners will consider second reading on a later date.

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