It won't happen quickly, but new Cole County Ambulance Chief Matt Lindewirth has announced plans to bring 24-hour paramedic shifts back to the service.
As the service continues recruiting for full-time paramedics, Cole County Emergency Medical Services announced this week it would implement a hybrid deployment model consisting of 24-hour units and 12-hour "peak units."
The service has been using 12-hour paramedic shifts for about a year. The change, approved by the Cole County Commission and recommended by former Director Jerry Johnston, was made based on safety concerns, believing having staff work 12 hours rather than 24 would keep them fresher.
However, after some paramedics were let go or resigned, those individuals voiced concerns about doing away with 24-hour shifts as the main reason the service was struggling to attract employees, as they feel 24-hour shifts give employees more schedule flexibility.
"There's a national shortage of paramedics right now," Lindeworth said. "In Central Missouri, those that work here or would want to come here want a 24-hour shift. If you can't recruit because you're not offering what they want, then you have to look at the employment model. So we made the decision to change to increase our staffing."
This latest change will not lead to any reduction in service, Lindewirth said. He believes it actually should increase the level of service Cole County EMS provides.
The service has seen a high increase in overtime since the original change was made, and Johnston and other supervisors have been filling in when there have been openings on the schedule.
The county has hired three new paramedics over the last couple of weeks, and all other positions on the service have been filled.
The service has a full-time staff of 54 people and 40 part-time staff. There have been 13 full-time paramedics working, with the budget allowing for up to 21.