Year after year, Aiken County Emergency Medical Service employees try to get better pay or better hours, and are encouraged by the hope that, next year, it will happen - only to be shot down once again come budget time.
EMS employees work grueling 24-hour shifts under less than desirable conditions. They fight fatigue, heat, rain and ice - not to mention the physically dangerous situations they face on a daily basis.
The most recent county newsletter warns employees of the dangers of sleep deprivation, relating that five hours of sleep or less in one night would make one physically kin to being legally drunk. Obviously, the county's own news falls upon deaf ears of Aiken County Council members, because EMS would consider itself fortunate to have five hours of uninterrupted sleep.
One simple solution to this problem would be a 12-hour shift for EMS. Yes, this would cost the county, but it's not as costly as losing the lives of its employees.
Many would say that the money must be good or they wouldn't stay. This is hardly the case. It is disturbing to learn that a custodian within the Aiken County system makes approximately $1.20 an hour more than a basic EMT.
How can that be possible? If you ask administrative personnel, they will tell you that the lowest-paid position in the county is a custodian, yet EMTs are paid considerably less.
When you look at yearly salaries, it looks as though EMTs are compensated fairly, but this is only because they work about 1,000 hours more a year than any other county employee. If these people were 8-hour-per-day employees, they would work 365 days a year, including holidays. No other employee would stand for this type of treatment. Why do we expect EMTs to?
Call your council members and plead with them to help EMS before it's too late.
Brandy Holder, Aiken, S.C.
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