Hyde County manager addresses recent EMS resignations

Published 8:16 am Thursday, June 8, 2023

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As Hyde County prepares to adopt their 2023-24 fiscal year budget, resignations in the county’s emergency services department have piled up.

Thirteen confirmed resignations have hit the county in the past month. Hyde’s full time EMS staff that have submitted resignations include: David White (director), Jeremy Kaiser (assistant director), Hank Stowe (field training officer), Kimberly Perry (paramedic) and Tavoccous Elliott (paramedic).

Hyde’s public information officer Donnie Shumate shared a note from county manager Kris Noble with The Coastland Times via email regarding the recent resignations. Noble started, “I prepared the following answers for our paper on the island and believe it may help shed some light on the situation in regard to the recent resignations.”

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“Mr. White has reported to us that the following have resigned: Joshua Ashmore, John Klutz, Coleman Davis, Ryan Swink, Mike Reece, Saundra Hensley, Erich Byrd and Sophie Holt.”

She continued, “However, it is important to note that all were on our part time roster. I would like to point out that only one of the above have worked at all for Hyde County in 2023. Some have not worked since 2020 and one has never even pulled a shift. They were not on any current staffing schedules and we did not as a result have to cover any shifts.”

The county manager’s statement comes after both the Swan Quarterly and Ocracoke Observer, Hyde county’s local news outlets, reported comments from White regarding his reason for resigning. The Ocracoke Observer’s Connie Leinbach wrote: “In his lengthy email, White, who is a paramedic and has worked for Hyde for 12 years, said he is leaving for better pay as a paramedic on another EMS unit and not as a manager shouldering the weight of an entire county’s healthcare.”

White’s email stated the following: “Your EMS management averages at least 80 hours every week between working shifts, office work, and 100+ hours a month on the phone during their off time, making home life, relationships, parenting, mental health, and many other things almost impossible. However, we are paid far less than many upper county employees who work, or rarely work, a full 40 hours a week.”

The Swan Quarterly shared a note from White, which address further concerns: “We are extremely understaffed and under budgeted, we cannot accomplish almost anything we need to this year. We need a new EMS station on Ocracoke, we need 100,000$ in repairs to the mainland base, we need 4 more personnel for a QRV on Ocracoke giving them guaranteed 24/7/365 healthcare access, we need 8 more personnel on the mainland for an additional EMS unit due to call volume. The entirety of our EMS ambulance fleet is failing and in the shop constantly, we need 5 new EMS units. This list goes on and on. This will only continue until Hyde County catches up with the times of supply and demand and increases the pay rates for EMS providers. The reason providers are leaving is because we do not wish for our names and reputations to be attached to the coming failures.”

Noble stated that former field training officer Stowe had submitted his resignation prior to White’s resignation, noting that Stowe did not cite concerns regarding budget in his letter, and asked to remain on the part time roster. As for combating the vacancies, Noble wrote, “Their shifts are being covered by existing staff. Hyde County has received many calls and emails over the last week from paramedics and EMTs expressing interest in the open positions and we will be filling them in the near future.”

According to Hyde County, White’s last day was May 30. Stowe’s last day in his full time position was June 1. Kaiser’s last day is June 10, Perry’s is June 18 and Elliott’s is June 30.

During a budget workshop meeting on May 25, Hyde County commissioners reviewed the EMS proposed budget. Commissioner Benjamin Simmons III pointedly mentioned the almost $400,000 overall increase within the proposed budget for EMS services alone. Both the salary and insurance line items reflected a portion of this increase. “A huge part of this is the employees for the increase,” Simmons voiced.

The proposed budget shows an increase in the proposed amount for EMS beginning July 1, jumping from $2.15 million last year in expenses to $2.5 million. Salaries saw an increase as well, calling for $1 million as opposed to last year’s $841,782. Simmons pointed out that the proposed budget was distributed on May 1, prior to resignations. Noble explained that she met with the EMS department head before the proposed budget was released, and discussed the possibility of implementing a pay scale, which would vary based upon level and experience. She made note of the “rich benefits package” that employees have access to during the workshop meeting.

“All of the Hyde County EMS shifts in the near future are currently staffed and we believe we will be able to cover all shifts with our own employees,” the county manager wrote via email. “Our existing staff are dedicated to continued care for our citizens and have voiced their support and willingness to get through this transition. If the county was in need of additional outside support, we can pull from our neighbors in surrounding counties, who have been very supportive, and from our partner agencies including but not limited to the NC Office of Emergency Medical Services (NC OEMS). We have had tremendous support from our neighbor counties and partner agencies including NC Emergency Management, NC OEMS, the NC Association of County Commissioners and regional health care coalitions.”

She added, “We are excited about our path ahead and look forward to restructuring and establishing new leadership within the department. It is a wonderful opportunity for positive change and development. The citizens of Hyde County can rest easy that EMS service will not be interrupted. We will continue operations uninterrupted and we are excited about the opportunity to embrace new leadership and new ideas.”

“In regard to our budget, Hyde County has an increase in our current proposed budget for EMS moving from $2,151,544 last fiscal year to $2,545,737 this fiscal year. The bulk of those increases are in salaries and related staff costs. There are also increases in maintenance and funding to upgrade our ambulance fleet. Hyde County does have a significant tax increase in the proposed upcoming budget to support rising costs to provide public safety services.”