Lawrence residents asks for action from common council to fix EMT and medic shortage

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LAWRENCE, Ind. – Concerned residents filled the Lawrence council chambers Tuesday night to voice their frustration over the EMT and medic shortage facing the city.  The situation continues to be a challenge for the fire department because neighboring communities pay higher wages for those positions. Now, councilors are saying they gained some clarity after the meeting.

Last month, the common council voted against a proposal to give EMTs and medics a $2 an hour raise. The proposal passed through two committees unanimously. But, six councilors changed their minds and voted against it when it went to the full council.

The fire chief says the city was down to just one ambulance over the holiday weekend due to staffing issues. In recent months, he said he’s been forced to either pull firefighters off engines to staff the ambulances or take ambulances out of service.

“A lot of these folks, they work part time jobs, they work for more than one EMS provider,” said Dino Batalis, Lawrence fire chief. “So when you call them to try to get them to work a shift, they’re going to go to their part time job that pays two, three, four dollars more an hour, five dollars in some cases.”

Here’s a comparison of salaries.

  • Lawrence paramedics: $15.64 an hour
  • Indianapolis paramedics: $19 an hour (starting salary)
  • Wayne Township paramedics: $20 an hour (starting)

One resident, who is a firefighter in Indianapolis, said he sees firsthand the difference medics and EMTs can make in the field.

“When you question their worth, I question your worth,” he said to the council. “Are you going to give up the ambulance in your district?”

After repeated requests for an interview, council president Joe Williams spoke to CBS4 after the council meeting. He said he plans to be in the comptroller’s office Wednesday morning to get this matter worked out.

“I’m sure we will revisit that very soon so we can go ahead and absolutely serve the citizens of the city,” Williams said.

Williams added his concerns over the long-term sustainability of these raises were answered when the comptroller said the city could keep this up “indefinitely.” He also said the council was given inaccurate information prior to last month’s vote.

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