The need for more first responders has been a consistent public concern in recent months, and paramedics are a crucial part of that equation. With that in mind, the Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a collaborative agreement between Dawson County’s Fire and Emergency Services and Faithful Guardian Training Center during their April 21 voting session.
The latter is a medical training business based out of Carroll County.
During a short presentation to the board, Fire & EMS Chief Danny Thompson revealed the critical need to recruit and grow the department’s own paramedics closer to home, at a time where there’s only one program within 25 miles of Dawson County.
“I found out last week that they only have one instructor there, and that program is dead in the water as we speak today,” Thompson said.
The contract with the training service is in effect for the next three years. Regular sessions would be held in Fire Station 7’s classroom space and with the plus of an on-site, Dawson-based instructor and updated equipment and furniture. EMS is providing the teacher, said Thompson, and funds from the training budget enable her to teach the program.
Overall, each course will last 15 months, and individual sessions will happen about once every three days on B shift, Thompson said. His department has moved people around so none of the participants are working overtime.
Those people have also already signed on to paramedic contracts.
BOC Vice-Chair and District 4 commissioner Emory Dooley asked what the three free spots in the contract meant. Because Dawson County will host the classes, three selected county paramedics a year will be able to attend without paying student fees. Thompson said he had the language changed to reflect that his personnel’s student fees will be free or paid for courtesy of the agreement. This amounts to a savings of $15,000-$18,000.
Faithful Guardian will be responsible for medical equipment, staffing clinical transports, filling out state and accreditation paperwork and managing clinical contracts with multiple medical facilities.
If either Fire & EMS or Faithful Guardian wants to exercise the termination part of the agreement, 60 days’ written notice would be required. Any group of students taking a class then would still be able to finish it.
There will also be a leadership group composed to help oversee the program and help guide it as needed. Faithful Guardian’s employees will remain their own, and vice versa.
Initially, 15 people were all that was required to start offering the course, and the cap was at 30.
Twenty-six people have expressed interest, including the six aforementioned personnel.
The other 20 individuals are from departments in surrounding areas, such as Forsyth, Hall, Habersham, Lumpkin or White counties.
“I can't tell you when I’ve had six paramedic applications, except for the last time the board did a significant raise,” Thompson added.
The chief expects the first iteration of the course to start the second week of May.
“It’s a valuable tool for both recruiting future employees and thus ensuring a consistent pipeline of paramedics to serve the community as we move forward…and it’s an opportunity to showcase our department,” he said.