Restructuring at Warren County EMS appears to be stemming the controversy that gripped the department for more than a year.
Morale has already improved, said EMS interim director Preston Denney to members of the county Safety Committee.
“It’s calmed down a lot,” said Denney. “Things have gotten a lot smoother compared to the last time I talked to you. Everyone has been great and supportive. We’ve made a lot of changes. The supervisors have changed.”
On the Safety Committee are Commissioners Teddy Boyd, chair, Carl D. Bouldin, Randy England, Ron Lee and Charles Morgan.
Denney was appointed Jan. 4 and was asked to make changes within the department including appointing supervisors to implement a chain of command and establishing a written policy for the department because it has never had one.
The department came under scrutiny in 2014 when county commissioners began to question an ongoing state audit to investigate timecard issues. An audit found the department was lacking in supervision and some employees were clocking each other in and out during times when they were not at work. Per the audit, approximately $23,834 was paid to 14 EMS employees for time worked at another entity or for time undocumented.
Since that time, then-director Brian Jennings resigned and other employees within the department have either resigned or were fired. Because the issue is a personnel matter, the names of the people who clocked in illegally are not being released.
When appointed, Denney was instructed to correct the lack of supervision by appointing supervisors. Denney appointed EMS employees John Pitts and Anthony Nash as supervisors on Jan. 4, while Melissa White was appointed approximately six months ago.
Concern was raised during last month’s meeting that Denney would not be “very popular” if he made the necessary changes within the department. Denney says he has been working closely with County Executive Herschel Wells to implement changes and the staff has responded well.
“They’ve all been great with what I’ve asked them to do,” said Denney of the supervisors. “I’ve added a lot to their plate, as far as what they do. I’ve been working with Herschel on some policies.”
Denney says he is surprised at the response and morale within the department, as a whole, has drastically improved.
Morgan asked, “Why has it changed so much in just a few weeks? I’m just curious on how two to three weeks can make that much difference.”
Supervisor Pitts says morale was negatively affected by a lack of supervision, no written policy for staff to follow, and the individuals who created the timeclock problems.
“We did have some paramedics who did some questionable things,” said Pitts. “We feel like, now, we are putting some standards into place. The citizens of Warren County will get the best service because of it.”
Supervisor Nash agreed that having individuals on staff who weren’t doing their jobs was affecting those who were.
“You come in and you do your job, but someone else doesn’t and they get the same praise and benefits as you do. That will affect morale,” said Nash. “Morale is so much better now.”
This month’s meeting of the county Safety Committee was held at Warren County EMS and was followed by a tour.