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EMT union claims high turnover rate

Posted: 9:28 PM, Mar 30, 2016
Updated: 2016-03-31 09:22:28Z

The union that represents emergency service technicians with the American Medical Response (AMR) are in a dispute with the city of Independence and the company. 

EMS Workers United-AFSCME said the city isn't asking tough questions and the company isn't being transparent, that they say that could put lives in danger.

Samantha Faris comes from a family of first responders. Four years ago, she joined AMR as an EMT.

"I love the interaction with my patients, that's the most important thing. I'm passionate about my job," Faris said.

But recently, she's noticed something unsettling. According to her union, the employee turnover rate last year was 23 percent twice the national average.

"That's a crisis to us," Faris said. "Would you want someone who has been here for a month or been here for five years?"

In Independence, the city's health director monitors response times monthly. Union members want him to do more that.

"That's currently the only metric that the city is measuring, then we're not getting a full picture of our emergency care here," Robert Mills, an EMT at AMR, said.

The city disagrees.

“The code does give the city the power to monitor patient care issues and response times, which our health director, Andrew Warlen, has done on a monthly basis both in-person and via reports. However, it does not allow our health director the power to require a private business to operate in a certain manner,” Craig Brenner, a city of Independence spokesman, wrote in a statement.

But the union points to ordinance SEC. 19.04.004. A.1 in the city's code that allows the health director to request more reports in additional to response times.

"SEC. 19.04.004. DUTIES OF THE DIRECTOR OF HEALTH.

A. Authority to Promulgate Regulations, Standards and Rules.

1. The Director of Health shall have the authority to promulgate regulations, standards, rules and minimum training requirements necessary to implement the policy and intent of this ordinance. They shall be filed in the office of the City Clerk."

"We don't want to get to the point where we have unfortunate incidents that are related to maybe inexperience personnel," Mills said.

The EMT union is also upset their employer isn't giving them enough information about the turnover rate. But AMR disputes that.

"We believe the union continues to misrepresent the data that we provided to them on multiple occasions and most recently on January 29, 2016. 

AMR Independence has a very stable full-time workforce. Our voluntary turnover rate for full-time employees is 2.5% and 9.32% for part-time employees. 

We are very proud of the low turnover rate for our full-time employees. It shows how committed our employees are to working for AMR and how dedicated they are to serving Independence."

--Kim Warth, AMR representative

The union says there are cities and counties in the country like Arlington, Texas, and Riverside County, California, that require AMR to provide information about their turnover rate.

Ultimately, Faris and the union simply want a quick solution to this problem.

"We all have a part to play and I think it's time for all of us to start playing our part," Faris said.

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Andres Gutierrez can be reached at  andres.gutierrez@kshb.com

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