In an effort to offset a shortage of weekend emergency medical staff, the Hoisington City Council recently approved a financial incentive to recruit and retain volunteer technicians.
Adequate weekend emergency staffing has been an issue for the city.
State law mandates all ambulance services providing emergency care (as defined by the rules and regulations adopted by the Kansas Board of EMS) will offer emergency service 24 hours a day, every day of the year.
“The problem of being able to provide weekend technician staff has evolved overtime,” said City Manager Jonathan Mitchell. “Trying to develop a solution to get volunteers to work weekends has been challenging. Volunteers are important but they’re also hard to find, especially good volunteers.”
While details of the incentive do not specify a maximum number of volunteers, Mitchell said he hopes to be able to have up to eight individuals.
“You always want to have lofty goals,” he said. “So we hope that as we market this we can get as many as eight covering a weekend.”
During weekend shortages, EMS Director Megan Elmore is shouldered with the task of insuring emergency service provision. Elmore is the only full-time EMS employee in Hoisington. On weekends that have a shortage of coverage, Elmore is assisted by a small roster of volunteers.
“Although that roster looks impressive, we still have a very small number of active technicians,” said Mitchell. “So right now, Megan has to rely on just a small group to make sure everything is covered.”
He added that current statues require that two certified technicians are on hand at any given time.
When asked why weekend shifts have posed the greatest amount of difficulty in providing coverage, Elmore said it’s usually a host of activities and family functions that keep volunteers away.
“Most of our volunteers live here in Hoisington and most sporting events and a lot of community and family activities are taking place over the weekends,” she said.
Mitchell said that an added perk of the new incentive is the provision of weekend living quarters for volunteers who reside outside of Hoisington. “So someone living in Great Bend or Russell or Claflin would have shelter and would not have to commute for the weekend,” he said. “Folks who don’t live in town will be provided a place to stay. We want this to be an enjoyable experience.”
According to Elmore, Hoisington EMS averages about a call a day. “Nights and weekends tend to be our busiest times,” she said.
As part of the incentive, technicians will be required to sign a contract that provides detailed information about eligibility, compensation and schedule options.
In order to be considered for contracting with the City of Hoisington to provide weekend coverage, the technician must not be bound by any other contract with the city for any additional purpose. The contract also stipulates that the technician must have successfully completed any required training mandated at the beginning of employment.
The contract provides two options. The option selected must remain constant for the duration of the agreement.
Option 1: The technician will work one full weekend per month which will consist of five 12-hour shifts. The five shifts must be consecutive beginning at 6 p.m. on Friday and continue all weekend until 6 a.m. on Monday. To meet the contractual obligations, this must be completed one weekend per month for one year beginning on the first day of the next full month following approval of the contract. The weekend will be subject to the director’s approval and is contingent upon shift availability.
Option 2: The technician will work eight full, 12-hour shifts, limited to Saturday and Sunday. The eight shifts can be on any weekend in any month but only count when they are on a Saturday and Sunday. To meet the contract obligations, this must be completed each month for one year, said year beginning on the first day of the next full month following approval of the contract.
Both options stipulate the technician to be first out on the schedule. Technicians who choose the first option will be given preference for scheduling.
According to the contract, compensation will be paid to the technician in the total amount of $2,500. The technician will be paid half of that amount upon approval of the contract by the service director, the city manager and the technician. The second payment will be issued when the technician has fulfilled the obligations outlined within the contract.
Other details highlighted in the contract include the following:
Voluntary Separation- In the event the technician voluntarily terminates employment without fulfilling the obligations outlined in the contract, the technician will pay back the City of Hoisington for the amount the technician has received under the contract.
Involuntary Termination- In the event the city terminates the technician prior to fulfillment of the obligations outlined in this contract, the technician will be required to pay back the City of Hoisington for the amount the technician has received under this contract only if the termination is for violations of the personnel policy of the city.
Failure to Complete- In the event the technician does not complete the contract by failing to work the required shifts, the technician will be obligated to pay back the City of Hoisington for the compensation received by the technician under this contract.
“A lot of the new volunteers really enjoy getting their experience here,” said Elmore. “There are times when things can get really hectic but overall there is a pace that newcomers feel comfortable with and we’re hoping that will cause many of them to stay.”