Budget prompts Hyde EMS resignations

Published 6:00 am Wednesday, June 7, 2023

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At least 19 employees with Hyde County Emergency Medical Service have resigned in over a month, because of cuts made to the EMS budget, according to former Hyde County EMS Director David White. The resignations include White and Deputy Director Jeremy Kaiser.

Former employees resigned from their jobs with the county, because their requested budget for Fiscal Year 2024 was reduced to an amount, they feel, does not meet their needs. Those needs being 15% salary raises, the purchase of new vehicles and the restoration and maintenance of the mainland station. Kaiser, who wrote the budget, said the department needed $3 million to cover those expenses; however, when the county’s budget was presented before the commissioners as a proposal, the EMS portion had been reduced to $2.5 million. 

Hyde County Manager Kris Noble explained in an email to the Daily News that the $2,545,737 million budget is an increase from last fiscal year’s $2,151,544 million for EMS. 

“The bulk of those increases are in salaries and related staff costs. There are also increases in maintenance and funding to upgrade our ambulance fleet. Hyde County does have a significant tax increase in the proposed upcoming budget to support rising costs to provide public safety services,” Noble wrote.  

Before the mass exodus of EMS personnel, the department had 40 employees. Noble wrote the county was made aware of eight resignations as of June 1. Noble wrote that all eight were part-time employees. 

“I would like to point out that only one of the above has worked at all for Hyde County in 2023. Some have not worked since 2020 and one has never even pulled a shift. They were not on any current staffing schedules and we did not as a result have to cover any shifts,” Noble wrote. Those who were full-time employees were White, Kaiser, Stowe (a field training officer) and paramedics Kimberly Perry and Tavoccous Elliott. Noble continued to explain that Stowe resigned before White and “did not cite budgetary concerns in his resignation and asked to remain on the part time roster.” 

According to Noble, all positions are being covered by existing staff. 

“All of the Hyde County EMS shifts in the near future are currently staffed and we believe we will be able to cover all shifts with our own employees. Our existing staff are dedicated to continued care for our citizens and have voiced their support and willingness to get through this transition,” Noble wrote. 

Should the county need assistance from outside agencies they can reach the NC Office of Emergency Medical Services (NC OEMS), neighboring counties and partner agencies including NC Emergency Management, NC OEMS, the NC Association of County Commissioner, regional healthcare coalitions and others, Noble explained.

“Hyde County has received many calls and emails over the last week from paramedics and EMTs expressing interest in the open positions and we will be filling them in the near future,” Noble wrote. “We are excited about our path ahead and look forward to restructuring and establishing new leadership within the department. It is a wonderful opportunity for positive change and development. The citizens of Hyde County can rest easy that EMS service will not be interrupted. We will continue operations uninterrupted and we are excited about the opportunity to embrace new leadership and new ideas.” 

White and Kaiser are not as optimistic about the future of EMS in Hyde County. White had been employed with Hyde EMS for 12 years working his way up from being a paramedic to director. He is now working as a paramedic in Davidson County and has an increased salary and his only responsibilities are to respond to calls and care for patients. 

This is a stark contrast to the amount of work he says EMS Management completed every week. Management worked an average of 80 hours per week working shifts and doing administrative tasks in addition to spending over 100 hours a month making and returning phone calls even on their time off. 

White explained that EMS departments across the state are giving salary raises between 10% and 30% for all levels, because there is a greater demand for EMS personnel than there is supply. He says the budget cuts this year do not allow for salary increases. 

“Hyde County mainland needs an additional fully staffed EMS unit to handle continually increasing call volume. On call is no longer a feasible option to bring in personnel to staff second units during busy shifts. This will require eight additional personnel full-time, and will be a necessity in the near future,” White wrote in a letter announcing his resignation. 

Salary increases are the primary reason many employees left, but vehicles were a secondary reason. Three ambulances belonging to Hyde County have more than 200,000 miles on them and are in need of constant repair which reduces the EMS department’s ability to respond to a call promptly. 

Too, White said there is a need for extra personnel on Ocracoke Island. Having only one EMS Unit, there have been multiple instances of healthcare not being readily available for all emergency needs on the island. According to White, it would cost the county $250,000 to staff four paramedics who could provide service all year without fail. “We have asked for this position for the last two years due to emergencies we couldn’t respond to due to call volume. It has been cut both times,” he wrote in a letter announcing his resignation. According to White, “there will be no extra staffing on Ocracoke for the summer except for two or three weekends the entire summer.” 

Finally, White explained the $3 million proposed EMS budget needed to cover the EMS mainland station. 

There have been multiple repairs to leaks from the roof and ceilings and numerous patches to the front and rear decks and floors all of which White says needs replacing to the tune of $150,000; however, he said Hyde County only budgeted this fiscal year for $100,000.