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County denies 'being cheap' in EMS hiring

Staff writer

Despite saving $30,000 a year by rejecting more experienced applicants, county commissioners say they weren’t trying to “get by on the cheap” by instead picking a local EMT with two years’ experience as a volunteer.

By restructuring the department, commissioners say, the new ambulance director won’t be setting policy or leading training but rather tending to the logistics of keeping ambulances staffed and ready.

A new board, led by physician Paige Dodson and including McCarty and representatives of ambulance crews across the county, will provide oversight.

Commissioner Dan Holub said Dodson favored having a board that would oversee EMS policy.

“When I visited with her, she thought it would be a great idea, a much more efficient way to do things,” he said.

Their newly hired director, Brandy McCarty, will tend to day-to-day matters. Her experience having run logistics for another health care operation, Marion Assisted Living Center, was an important consideration.

“I can see the headline, ‘Commission decides to get by on the cheap,’ and people are going to assume that whether it’s in the paper or not,” Holub said after McCarty accepted an annual salary of $39,264 for two years. “That was not the thing.”

The only candidates who matched the commissioners’ desired qualifications required “no less than $70,000,” former interim director JoAnn Knak said.

By hiring McCarty, the commissioners effectively changed the purpose of the position.

“It’s not a super paramedic or EMT that we’re hiring,” Holub said. “It’s an administrative job. I don’t think it’s ever been looked at like that before.”

The creation of the EMS board contributed to the commissioners’ belief that McCarty could be successful, but they still expressed concern over how the hire would be perceived publicly.

“It’s come down to logistics,” Dallke said. “This board has done due diligence to try to do the best for Marion County’s public and Marion County EMS.”

McCarty acknowledges she’ll have a lot to learn on the technical side of things — in September, she completed an advanced EMT course, and will become a certified AEMT upon completion of her written exam.

She also said that she was willing to take advice from others and that she would work closely with Dodson, who will head the medical board.

McCarty’s performance will be evaluated in one year.

“We just wanted to at least give it a chance, and if it doesn’t work out, we’ll see what happens,” Chairman Roger Fleming said.

The commissioners anticipated some doubt among the current volunteers, given McCarty’s lack of experience relative to the position’s traditional requirements, but urged them to stand by her and help as needed.

“To all the volunteers, please give Brandy a chance to work with you and to assist, and she’s willing to take advice also,” Fleming said. “Just be patient. I know this is probably a lot different than what a lot of people were expecting, and I hope people just sit back and watch for a while and continue business as usual.”

Last modified Oct. 23, 2014

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