Cole County will be looking for a new chief for its EMS service, county officials confirmed.
On Tuesday, Chief Matt Lindewirth turned in his resignation from the post.
"My wife and I decided it was time for a change," Lindewirth said in a statement to the News Tribune. "So I submitted my resignation (Tuesday). I have been asked by the commissioners to assist in finding my replacement. I'm not sure what's next for me professionally, but a little break is welcomed by my family and I."
Presiding Commissioner Sam Bushman said it was with regret that they accepted Lindewirth's resignation.
Lindewirth will stay on until July 9, Bushman said.
Eastern District Commissioner Jeff Hoelscher and Western District Commissioner Harry Otto declined to comment about the resignation, saying they couldn't because it is a personnel matter.
Lindewirth was hired in June 2018 as deputy director of Cole County EMS. A native of St. Louis, he had been serving as an emergency medical services chief in South Carolina.
However, before his first day on the job as deputy chief, Lindewirth was promoted to director.
That was because then-director Jerry Johnston resigned as head of the service with his last day in the position coming in early July 2018.
Lindewirth was the third director of the county ambulance service since the county took over the service from Capital Regional Medical Center in 2009.
In September 2015, county commissioners were approached by ambulance service employees, citing low morale and that a change was needed in how the service was managed.
In July 2016, the commission reassigned Mike Shirts from ambulance service director to paramedic after EMS staff presented a vote of no confidence in Shirts.
At that time, the commission engaged Paramedics Plus LLC as a consultant to work on system enhancements to the operations of the ambulance service, including reorganization of personnel.
In December 2016, Johnston was hired as director after serving as an ambulance director of a service in the Oakland, California, area.
During his time as EMS chief, Lindewirth brought back 24-hour shifts. When he proposed this and the commission approved it in August 2018, that had been seen as the main reason the service was struggling to attract employees. At the same time, the commission also approved a new pay scale and personnel additions for the service. Currently, the starting pay for a paramedic is $51,000, and the starting pay for an emergency medical technician is $31,000.
As of Wednesday, county officials said, there were four paramedic openings and one opening for emergency medical technician.
Currently, the service has 12-, 24- and 48-hour shifts; the latter means the paramedic and emergency medical technician on that truck work two back-to-back 24-hour shifts, followed by four days off before returning to work. The personnel working on 12-hour shifts are based in locations with historically high call volumes.
Last November, the commission approved a plan from Lindewirth to hire 10 new full-time paramedics due to the increased number of calls EMS has been responding to, primarily due to COVID-19-related cases.
Lindewirth said the call volume was increasing even before COVID-19 started, going from just more than 8,500 calls for service in 2019 to nearly 11,000 calls in 2020.
As part of this plan, the commission also approved funds to house an ambulance and crew at the Osage Fire Protection District in Wardsville and at the Cole County Fire Protection District station at County Park. Both have a 24-hour ambulance.