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With a career crew on board, the JEB Stuart Rescue Squad is nearing 100 percent call coverage, according to Derek Wagner, captain.

The paid squad program began on June 1, and now includes 14 employees. Only five are considered full-time employees, Wagner said. They also receive a total of 8 hours per month personal time off.

Paid crews run from 11 p.m. on Sunday to 7 p.m. on Friday. Depending on each individual’s availability, shifts are 12 to 24 hours.

“It just depends on what they want,” Wagner said.

Full-time paramedics are paid $16 per hour. Full-time Basic Life Support (BLS) employees are paid $11 per hour, Wagner said. He said that part-time employees in the respective posts are paid $1 less per hour than their full-time counterparts.

Revenues from soft billing – not the county’s coffers — are used to pay the career crews, Wagner said.

“Our finances right now are a little tight. We had several bad (soft billing) months because we were down in call coverage, but we’re paying our employees and paying the bills,” Wagner said.

The increased call coverage also is helping, Wagner said, noting that before June, the squad’s call coverage was 60 percent. With the addition of career staff running calls, call coverage rose to 97 percent in June – the first month with new employees.

For example, on a recent Wednesday, the squad received six calls after midnight, Wagner said. “We responded to five; Station 8 (the county’s paid service) took one call for us.”

When the squad covers between 90 and 95 percent of its calls, he estimated between $30,000 and $40,000 is generated by soft billing revenues.

In addition to increased call coverage and soft billing revenues, Wagner said the morale boost to the squad’s roster of 20 volunteers is an added bonus.

He added that while 20 volunteer members meet minimum membership requirements; about five are “extremely active; the morale of volunteers has picked up because we’re able to provide better call coverage.

“There has been no friction whatsoever” between the volunteers and paid staff, Wagner said. “The paid providers help out, and they’re there to back up the volunteers. I think the volunteers are happy with them.”

The squad also is rebuilding, and while it’s up to speed on the number of paid providers, Wagner said additional volunteers are needed.

To get involved or for more information, email Wagner at derek.wagner@jebstuartrescue.org.

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