Pilot Program May Benefit Sedgwick County (KS) EMS

A Sedgwick County EMS Ambulance
Photo/Sedgwick County

Editor’s note: The original headline incorrectly stated Sedgwick County EMS would receive a bonus. County commissioners will discuss bonuses for EMS next week. JEMS regrets the error.

Chance Swaim

The Wichita Eagle


To combat widespread staffing shortages, Sedgwick County is offering signing bonuses up to $5,000 for some new employees.

The signing bonuses are available for new hires in facilities maintenance, emergency communications (911) and Comcare — departments in which the county is having trouble attracting applicants, County Manager Tom Stolz told commissioners Wednesday.

“It is a trial policy to see if the use of signing bonuses is an effective way to bolster and recruit workforce in areas that have large numbers of openings of specialty positions,” Stolz said.

Commissioners unanimously approved the signing bonuses Wednesday. They plan to discuss additional hiring bonuses in Emergency Medical Services and Corrections, two departments also suffering from massive staffing shortages, as soon as next week.

“We clearly have issues in Corrections and EMS, which we also want to analyze and study,” Stolz said. “And if this works, perhaps put that into this policy as well and bring that back to you for consideration.”

The County Commission also received an update on the staffing crisis in EMS.

A Wichita Eagle investigation last month found EMS staffing shortages were leading to slower response times, ambulance shutdowns and additional stress on the existing staff. Paramedics and EMTs said they left the department because they did not like the leadership of former EMS Director Dr. John Gallagher, who was removed from his position and resigned following The Eagle’s coverage. In the two years Gallagher was head of the department, 92 employees left.

Since Gallagher’s removal and replacement by a longtime paramedic, Kevin Lanterman, no EMS workers have quit, Stolz said Wednesday.

Now, the challenge is attracting new employees. Commissioner Jim Howell, who has led the charge to improve EMS, said he thinks the bonuses should be extended to EMS — along with bonuses for employees who have served the county for a certain amount of time. Commissioners said they’re open to any changes and plan to discuss additional bonuses next week.

The hiring bonuses approved Wednesday range from $1,500 to $5,000 as follows:

— Facilities maintenance: $1,500

— 911 call takers and dispatchers: $1,500

— Comcare case managers: $2,500

— Comcare senior social workers, clinical social workers, team supervisors, program managers, compliance and performance specialists: $5,000.

New workers will receive the bonus on the first paycheck after 60 days of employment.

Facilities maintenance has seven open jobs out of 26 total positions in the department. Emergency communications has 25 call-taker openings and one dispatcher job available.

Comcare has 100 open case manager positions and 71 openings for senior social workers, clinical social workers, team supervisors, program managers, compliance and performance specialists, who are eligible for the $5,000 bonus.


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