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Amid paramedics' claims of exhaustion, HCFR begins to change recruiting tactics

(WPDE)

Wednesday was another scheduled 24 hour shift for some Horry County Fire Rescue (HCFR) paramedics.

Others also showed up to work, called in as a part of the department's mandatory overtime system that employees say is used way too often due to staffing shortages.

The issue was first made public at a county council meeting earlier this month.

RELATED: Horry County first responders sound the alarm on overtime

Paramedics say the 100+ hours they work each month affect their ability to save lives.

"If they're that tired, it's going to affect the response times, it's going to affect the level of care," Horry County Professional Firefighters Union President Rob Mullaney explained.

Multiple HCFR employees have contacted ABC15 since our initial story ran, describing working conditions they call "unsafe".

"It's got to the point that my daughter wants to speak to Mr. Lazarus to ask him when I get to come home," one person said, under the condition that we did not reveal his identity.

Another called for county council members to visit fire stations and speak with firefighters and paramedics in person.

HCFR spokesman Mark Nugent acknowledged the staffing shortage, but said it was not affecting the level of service the department provided when responding to calls.

"Absolutely not," Nugent said, in response to our question. "[They are] trained professionals. They do their job, and they do a good one."

Then he paused. "Morale? I don't know if it's where it needs to be," he admitted.

Nugent pulled out a large binder marked "2018", explaining that it contained the year's recruiting strategy to help fill the vacancies.

He gave our crew a short preview of the department's new recruiting campaign, including billboard advertisements, and said administrators were reaching out to more firefighting schools to recruit.

He also said the department will hire part time paramedics for the first time, hoping people that are trained and working in the medical field might be interested in earning some extra income.

"People aren't knocking the door down to come work for us. So with that known, we need to start looking beyond the walls of our fire station," Nugent said.

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