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PITTSBURGH, PA – Mayor William Peduto and the Fraternal Association of Professional Paramedics have reached agreements to increase hiring of new paramedics and emergency medical technicians, and reduce mounting costs of forced overtime for Emergency Medical Services personnel.

Demand for Pittsburgh’s EMS medical call and transport services has been increasing, while staffing levels have remained flat due to challenges in recruiting new medics and EMTs. That has required increases in forced overtime shifts, with 61% of EMS employees being forced to work four or more days of overtime in the second quarter of this year, and 5% forced to work more than 10 days.

At the same time 40% of the EMS workforce is more than 50 years old, and 35% have been working for the City for more than 26 years, making the increased workload more difficult, and leading to injuries and lost time at work. EMS employees have the highest rates of overall injuries and lost-time injuries in the City workforce.

To address those trends, Peduto administration and EMS union officials this week agreed to three new sidebar agreements to the union’s contract. They include:

  • Restructuring the payment tiers for new paramedics to boost recruitment efforts
  • Raising wages for new EMTs to $15 per hour, in accordance with Mayor Peduto’s 2015 Executive Order
  • Allowing EMTs to staff two new basic life support units during morning and afternoon shifts to bolster EMS services, and lessen the need for paramedics to take forced overtime shifts

“These improvements will mean better public safety services for residents, relief for over-worked EMS personnel, and decreased City overtime spending,” said Mayor Peduto. “I want to thank the paramedics union leadership for collaborating with us to make changes that are beneficial for all.”

Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich said “increasing the manpower of EMS was a top Mayoral directive as Public Safety Director when I was hired seven months ago. By working collaboratively, we have devised a way to maintain the high level of service expected of Pittsburgh EMS while decreasing job-related stress and filling job vacancies.”

Forced overtime shifts of up to three days of extra work increased by 87% in the first quarter of 2016, and the forced shifts continued to mount in the second quarter. As a result the City paid out $2.3 million in overtime to EMS workers in the first six months of the year. Furthermore due to the strains of the hazardous job, workers’ compensation costs have also mounted, with the City paying out $5.1 million in worker’s comp costs from 2011-2015.

Under the first sidebar agreement new paramedic hires will be paid $17.93 per hour (increased from $15.05), which should help the City attract candidates for six open paramedic vacancies.

Under the second agreement – which will help the City hire some 20 new EMTs – first-year EMTs will be paid $15 per hour in 2016; second-year EMTs $15.13 per hour in 2017; and third-year EMTs $15.61 in 2018.

Less than 50% of all EMS calls require the advanced life support (ALS) services certified paramedics provide, so hiring more EMTs to provide basic life support (BLS) services will allow paramedics to work fewer forced overtime shifts. The third sidebar agreement allows creation of new BLS transport units, and requires that no less than 12 ALS transport units will work the daylight and afternoon shifts, and 10 ALS transport units will work the overnight shift.

The cost of the new initiatives is estimated to be $1.2 million annually, which will be paid for through reductions in overtime and worker’s compensation costs, and from extra revenue from increased transports.

 A copy of the sidebar agreements can be found here: 2016 EMS Sidebar Agreements.

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