Note: This story has been updated throughout with additional information.
The city of Denison has moved forward with hiring a private firm to begin taking emergency ambulance calls through Denison Fire Rescue to fill employment gaps.
A company named LifeNet Inc., recently made a post on Facebook advertising a job opening for emergency medical technicians to provide advanced life support ambulance services for the city. According to the firm's website, it is a non-profit organization that provides ambulance services.
The posting on LifeNet's site states the EMTs are needed to run 911 calls which will originate within the Denison fire department. The posting also states the ambulance will be co-located within the Denison fire department.
A second job posting is listed calling for paramedics.
Denison Mayor Janet Gott said the city is using this as a temporary measure to fill the employment gaps while the department can get its staffing back up to full levels.
“This is something that has been planned,” she said. “It is not an outsourcing of our EMS. You would liken this to using a temp agency. We are in the process of hiring applicants who tested in early June. We have another test this month. Our goal is to get the department up to full manning by August. It takes several months to get a paramedic certified.”
Gott said the city is looking to fast track those new hires through a condensed paramedic course that will begin in the fall at Grayson College.
“One of the things we heard from the firefighters when we met with them in early June was how they had been working mandatory overtime for a year now as the department has been down to 12 people,” Gott said. “They are tired. This is a way to give them relief to clear it so they can have vacations like everybody else.”
A press release the city issued around 1 p.m. on Wednesday said the partnership with LifeNet is temporary until all the new hires are through the training process. It also said the temporary employees will operate Denison Fire Rescue vehicles along side the department’s own staff.
This all comes after the city began talking about hiring a private firm to outsource the city’s emergency services at its budget workshop in April. At that time, the department was down a number of individuals and Denison Fire Rescue Chief Gregg Loyd said the plan was to outsource EMS in order to reduce the number of staff on the department's payroll.
Loyd mentioned in May that the decision not to outsource EMS had been made by a committee that had been formed to discuss the matter, and Denison Fire Marshal Keith Bates said that as far as he knew, it was that committee that made the decision which informed the fire department.
Denison Director of Community Engagement Sunny Mackey said in May there had been no committee had been formed to discuss the matter and Denison City Administrator Jud Rex said that after the workshop discussions took place in April a subcommittee was in the process of being formed but he ultimately made the decision not to pursue outsourcing the EMS and the subcommittee was never officially formed or met.
At the May Denison Firefighters Pension and Relief Fund board meeting, a reduction of labor force study was provided to fire department personnel. At that time Rex and Loyd both said the city had reversed course on the decision to outsource its EMS services, and the fire department recently began testing to fill a number of vacancies and has even worked with Grayson County College to provide a condensed paramedic course beginning in the fall in order to fill those ranks more quickly.
What do you think about the employment issues Denison Fire Rescue is facing? Let Denison area reporter Richard A. Todd know at RTodd@HeraldDemocrat.com.