Williamson County paramedics working overtime, hoping academy can help cover shortages

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WILLIAMSON COUNTY (KXAN) — Williamson County is hoping to fill some much-needed positions as they face a shortage of paramedics.

“We have definitely seen the impact of the pandemic and the stress that it has added to our caregivers and our paramedics,” said Mike Knipstein, director of Williamson County EMS. “We are seeing the effects of that when we are trying to recruit and also retain folks.”

Currently, there are nine paramedic openings in the department. It might not sound like many, but it’s causing other paramedics to pick up the slack and work longer hours.

Williamson County EMS says in 2020 when the pandemic first started they were budgeted for $3.2 million dollars of overtime and they paid out $3.1 million. This year, the department budgeted for $3.5 million and paid out $3.6 million. The department’s fiscal year runs from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30.

Now, the department is focused on filling the positions and making sure its employees stick around.

“We were fortunate in that we were able to increase our starting compensation by 15% with this fiscal year,” Knipstein said. “We have 10 new paramedics in our academy right now and they will be hitting the streets before too long.”

Starting pay for a first-year paramedic is $66,000.

“Our staff has done a fantastic job of stepping up to staff the ambulances to make sure we have the resources available to take care of our citizens so with that additionally there is some additional overtime and workdays they are having to do and we are grateful for that,” Knipstein said. “I want people to know when they are working there it is taking away from their families and we are very appreciative of that.”

Knipstein said call volume did increase with the latest surge of COVID-19 cases, but they did not see a major increase in response time even with the staffing shortages.

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