The city of Denison may continue to outsources its emergency medical services into the next fiscal year due to ongoing personnel shortages in Denison Fire Rescue.
City Manager Jud Rex said last week that the city is looking to extend its contract with LifeNet, who has provided EMS services for Denison since 2019. In part, Rex attributed the ongoing shortage of EMTs and paramedics to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
"We are still running about nine positions short right now and that is somewhat intentional as we still have a contract with LifeNet to provide our EMS service," Rex said in early August. "So basically what we are going to need to do for the future is to extend that contract with LifeNet until we can get to the other side of the pandemic and look at filling those positions.
"It has been difficult to recruit during the pandemic and therefore we are likely to extend our contract with LifeNet into the next fiscal year."
The issues regarding staffing at the fire department extends back for over a year. In early 2019, the city first proposed outsourcing its EMS services to an outside company, but faced public backlash at the proposal.
The city pulled back from these plans following the public input and announced that it would begin training on a new class of firefighters and EMTs to fill the voices in the department.
In mid-2019, the department hired LifeNet to temporarily oversee the city’s EMS services during the training process, which was expected to take place over the fall and winter.
These plans saw some delays in early 2020 as many of the testing centers for certification were closed due to the pandemic.
From the initial group, Rex said the city was able to hire between nine and 12 new employees into the department. However, currently it is still about nine short of where it should be, he said.
During last week’s city council meeting, Fire Chief Gregg Loyd gave members on the council an update on the department. During the update, Loyd spoke briefly about the difficulties in hiring and maintaining staff.
In part, he attributed this to the city’s proximity to the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, where communities have been increasingly competitive for talented firefighters and emergency personnel.
"It (recruitment) will continue to be a challenge," Loyd said. "We live so close to the Metroplex and they show no signs of letting up on that completely competitive market."
As an example, Loyd said the city of Allen recently posted jobs within the department that included a $78,000 starting wage for certain positions.
Michael Hutchins is the local government reporter for the Herald Democrat. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.