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EMS chief proposes weekend on-call incentives

The Icon is providing expanded and corrected descriptions of two incentive program options provided by EMS Chief Jan Basinger. The proposal document is attached.

EMS Chief went on 486 of 808 calls in 2022

By Paula Scott

On January 9, the Bluffton Council safety services committee met to hear a proposal by EMS Chief Jan Basinger to provide on-call and service frequency incentives for EMS volunteer crew members. He was responding to a 2021 request from the council to create a bonus program for EMS members.

The reason for the new proposal is that calls for service are steadily increasing while EMS volunteer personnel numbers are decreasing.

Basinger’s first proposal is to create a bonus incentive to “encourage less active members to run more often.” Squad members could receive from $100-$600/month in bonus pay for calls resulting in patient transports in addition to hourly pay. The estimated cost of such a program is $18.9K.

A second option is to create an on-call compensation program, paying three EMS personnel $5/hour to be on-call. This could be done for weekends or for the entire week. 

Weekend hours covered would be 6:00 p.m. Friday-10:00 p.m. Sunday with three EMS personnel signed up for morning, afternoon, evening and overnight shifts.

To expand Bluffton’s proposed on-call compensation program to cover all seven days of the week would cost $73,320, based on 2023 EMS call history.

There are currently 14 individuals on the EMS roster. These personnel are “volunteers” in that they sign up to be on call. Most have other full time jobs. Fire Chief Jon Kinn and volunteer firefighters Tony Pinks and Greg Probst also respond to EMS calls.

Committee member Ben Stahl pointed out that when Basinger was on vacation for a week, there were 8 runs that required mutual aid assistance from other districts. It was noted that if Basinger were to have a health problem or win the lottery, the department would have great difficulty covering his absence.

In 2022, a total of 808 calls for service were covered by Bluffton EMS crews. Basinger himself went on 486 calls while also serving as waste water plant operator. Six of the 14 EMS volunteers assisted on fewer than 50 calls during the year.

Basinger suggested that a weekend on-call compensation program could help the department manage call loads for the next couple of years. 

He noted that some nearby communities are paying volunteers more than the $16-18/hour paid by Bluffton. In Putnam County, a new pay policy provides $80-$120/per call based on EMT, Advanced EMT or Paramedic certification.

The Ada-Liberty Ambulance District recently passed a new levy to provide daytime shift coverage; Ada receives some 600 EMS calls per year.

Regarding income, Chief Basinger noted that there has been an increase in requests for transport patients from Bluffton Hospital. In 2022, there were 84 transports increasing EMS revenues by $40,000.

No action was requested from council at this meeting, chaired by council member Phil Talavinia and attended by members Dave Steiner, Mitch Kingsley and Ben Stahl, as well as Police Chief Ryan Burkholder and Fire Chief Jon Kinn. The committee requested related finanical information from Fiscal Officer Kevin Nichols.