As a shortage of EMS workers seems to be getting worse, a southern Maine community wants to take action.
North Berwick officials believe they’ve come up with a solution for their staffing issues.
“It’s not sustainable,” North Berwick Rescue Squad Chief Michael Barker said.
For years, the North Berwick Rescue Squad has been staffed by per-diem, or part-time, EMTs and paramedics. It’s now more difficult to fill shifts.
“We were offering some incentives, a lot of overtime pay, even offering some shifts at double time,” Barker said.
With more competition among communities for workers, leaders said it’s not cost effective and difficult to maintain. That’s why they want to hire four full-time EMS workers.
“Offering some full-time opportunities, you know, helps, get the health insurance, have some paid time off, have some stability,” Barker said.
The organization would still have per-diem workers.
Officials want to increase their wages from the current $24 an hour to $30.
“These are trained professionals and they’re deserving of more money,” North Berwick Board of Selectmen Chair Charles Galemmo said.
If approved, town officials said this could increase the average tax bill by $90 this year.
“We’re between a rock and a hard place,” Galemmo said.
Galemmo said the town and rescue squad has some funding available to initially reduce the impact to community members.
“It won’t be one big jump in one year, it will be smaller jumps,” Galemmo said.
Part of the future costs will be offset by insurance.
He believes this is the most cost-effective solution that was considered and still maintains a high level of service.
“When you dial 911, you want someone to show up, it’s not for fun, so we felt this was the best option for the town,” Galemmo said.
This issue will go before voters during a special meeting Tuesday night.