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Mecklenburg County approves $5,000 bonus for some paramedics and EMTs

Ambulances sit parked inside Medic's Charlotte headquarters.
Claire Donnelly
Ambulances sit parked inside Medic's Charlotte headquarters.

Mecklenburg County commissioners on Tuesday night approved retention bonuses for certain employees of Medic, the county’s emergency medical services agency.

The bonus plan gives certain full-time workers, including paramedics, emergency medical technicians, or EMTs, telecommunicators and operations support technicians, up to $5,000 total. The bonus is split into two payments: an initial $1,500 and, 12 months later, a second installment of $3,500. Eligible part-time employees could receive up to $2,500 total, broken into payments of $750 and $1,750.

The bonuses are funded by federal COVID-19 relief money and are designed to reduce staff turnover at Medic, which has struggled to attract and retain employees during the pandemic. A spokesperson for Medic said 434 employees, out of 572 total, are eligible for the bonuses.

“We certainly don’t view this proposal as a panacea to address all of their (Medic’s) issues,” Deputy County Manager Derrick Ramos told commissioners. “We view this as an immediate, near-term step to help address the high turnover rate that we’re seeing today.”

Ramos added that county staff are “looking comprehensively” at Medic’s employee retention needs and plan to make additional recommendations to county leaders in the future.

In January 2022, the Federal Emergency Management Agency sent eight ambulances and 16 staff members to help Medic through a COVID-19 surge fueled by the omicron variant. The teams left in March.

Medic's deputy director, Jonathan Studnek, told WFAE that during the January omicron surge, the agency was averaging more than 40 calls a day related to COVID-19. Meanwhile, the agency had staff vacancies in the "mid to high 60s" and more than 30 workers were calling out sick on a daily basis.

By comparison, the agency said in November it was short about 38 paramedics and EMTs and was transporting some 25 COVID-19 patients per day.

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Claire Donnelly is WFAE's health reporter. She previously worked at NPR member station KGOU in Oklahoma and also interned at WBEZ in Chicago and WAMU in Washington, D.C. She holds a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University and attended college at the University of Virginia, where she majored in Comparative Literature and Spanish. Claire is originally from Richmond, Virginia. Reach her at cdonnelly@wfae.org or on Twitter @donnellyclairee.