Staffing shortage affecting many Charlottesville first responders

Staffing shortage affecting many Charlottesville first responders

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - First responders in Charlottesville are working long hours to make up for a shortage of EMTs and firefighters.

A lack of funding can mean staff members are forced to work multiple overtime shifts every week, making a big impact on their families.

Between 2015 and 2019, the city has spent more than $3.7 million in over time for the people at the Charlottesville Fire Department (CFD).

Firefighters say the impact of working all those hours is far-reaching.

Michelle Pitsiokos
Michelle Pitsiokos (Source: WVIR)

Michelle Pitsiokos has worked at CFD for more than 25 years. She is one of the dozens feeling the impacts of what most in the department call a lack of funding for staffing.

"I'm the only female here that has kids,” Pitsiokos said. “When the overtime gets to where it is where I'm working 72 hours on, 24 off, 48 on, it’s hard on them.”

Pitsiokos’ husband, Peter, says he won't see his wife for days at a time: "We have some difficulty understanding how the city can hire a new deputy fire chief, a new administrator, and at the same time claim that they don't have enough money for the boots on the ground the people who are going on the trucks," he said.

According to documents obtained by NBC29 through the Freedom of Information Act, CFD Chief Andrew Baxter claims he has requested the funding for additional positions from three different city managers over the last several years.

In an email to City Manager Tarron Richardson, Baxter says that funding for nine new positions cannot wait until the city's budget is approved this July.

Chief Baxter claimed he had to place another medic unit in service around the start of February, because Charlottesville, which has a population over 47,000 people, was being protected by a single-staffed medical unit.

"We're tired, we're frustrated, we would just like to see a solution, and try to fix the problem," Michelle Pitsiokos said. "We do this because we love this job, and we love the people that we take care of, and we want to be able to give them the best care that we can."

Until the funding is approved by Charlottesville, CFD will heavily rely on overtime to make sure people’s calls can be answered.

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