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Colfax Rescue Squad proposing part-time EMTs rather than volunteers

By LeAnn R. Ralph

COLFAX  —  The Colfax Rescue Squad is proposing to hire part-time EMTs for $7.25 or $7.75 per hour rather than relying on volunteer EMTs.

The rescue squad has 25 dedicated volunteers, but increased work and family commitments have made it difficult for them to find time to fill in on shifts this year, said Don Knutson, director of the Colfax Rescue Squad, at the annual meeting August 20.

Earlier this year, the Colfax Village Board approved hiring another 30-hour per week EMT as a limited term employee to help fill the gap until the end of the year.

Knutson said he is proposing to hire two additional 30-hour EMTs and then switch to using part-time employees rather than volunteers for the rest of the time.

Colfax Rescue Squad volunteers currently are paid $3.50 per hour to be on stand-by at the rescue squad building.

As the director of the rescue squad, Knutson cannot schedule volunteers to work or require them to work — they must volunteer.

Staffing is a challenge for emergency services nationwide, Knutson said.

And while it is true that Knutson has worked many extra hours himself over the past few years, he can only cover so many of those extra hours.

Knutson said one of the greatest assets for a rescue squad director is an understanding wife — and that his wife has been exceptionally understanding.

One positive aspect of the Colfax Rescue Squad’s staffing is the medic students from the fire and medic programs at the technical colleges, Knutson said.

The students work at the Colfax Rescue Squad as EMTs to gain practical experience, and they are already licensed, so Colfax does not have to pay for training, he said.

The students are, however, transient by the very nature of being students, Knutson noted.

In addition to hiring two additional 30-hour EMTs, Knutson’s proposal includes paying part-time EMTs $7.25 per hour for EMT-basic, and $7.75 per hour for EMT-advanced.

The proposal includes requiring the part-time EMTs to cover 24 hours per month but not to exceed 80 hours per month.

No benefits would be paid for the part-time EMTs.

If the second ambulance needs to be called out because the first ambulance is already out on a run, the part-time EMTs would receive a $25 call-in bonus, the same as the volunteers receive now.

The per-run payment that EMTs receive now would be eliminated.

Event pay, such as covering the horse shows at Otter Creek Farm, would pay EMTs $17.50 per hour, which would be the same as the per-event pay that the volunteer EMTs receive currently.

Part-time EMTs would be paid their hourly rate for training.

Currently, the cost is $134 for the per-hour rate for one EMT-basic and one EMT-advanced volunteer for a 12-hour shift, plus a run stipend for one ambulance call.

Under the new system with one basic and one advanced EMT, a 12-hour shift with one ambulance run would cost $180.

The difference of $46 would be offset by a proposed increase in the per-run charges of $70, Knutson said.

A basic life support ambulance run for a resident of the district is $653.72 this year and is proposed to increase to $723.72 for 2016.

The Colfax Village Board must approve the rescue squad’s proposed 2016 budget and must approve hiring two more 30-hour EMTs and changing the volunteers to part-time employees.