Union says paramedic staffing levels at 'rock bottom' in Portsmouth; city responds

Generic: Portsmouth City Hall
Posted at 10:46 AM, May 09, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-09 20:48:10-04

PORTSMOUTH, Va. - Paramedic staffing levels in the city are at "rock bottom," according to a Facebook post by the Portsmouth Professional Firefighter & Paramedics Association.

The group made the post on Sunday afternoon.

"In the past we informed our citizens on days where we had ambulances in service with no paramedics........Unfortunately that is becoming the daily norm," the group wrote, encouraging people to contact City Manager Angel Jones.

The union didn't respond to an interview request on Monday, but the post has gotten plenty of social media attention, with hundreds of people sharing it.

They have been taking their message to recent city council budget hearings.

"Investing in public safety is investing in the public," said Tiffany Stuart, a paramedic and the union's vice president, at the April 26 meeting.

Currently, the city has five ambulances ready to respond to emergencies at all times. The union believes the city needs to add a sixth.

"Currently, when a 911 call comes in and all of our ambulances are being used, our residents must wait for another ambulance from a neighboring city to respond," said Stuart.

In response to the post, a city spokesperson told News 3 there are three full-time paramedic vacancies in the city and they are recruiting for these vacancies this week. The Fire/EMS department is staffed with 51 paramedics. Of them, 38 are full-time and 13 are part-time.

The city says about 30% all medical emergencies need a paramedic response. In the majority of cases, an EMT or Advanced EMT can handle the emergency.

Paramedics receive more training than EMTs.

If an ambulance does not have a paramedic on board, the city says they can have a paramedic respond if needed either by an EMS supervisor in their vehicle or from a certified paramedic riding in a firetruck.

"This response methodology allows the department to deploy resources in a variety of ways. By maximizing the utilization of all response vehicles, the department is able to provide the optimal responses as a Fire-based EMS Department," spokesperson Dana Woodson said.

The post comes as first responder staffing remains a challenge nationwide, particularly for law enforcement.

News 3 reached out to agencies throughout Hampton Roads for comment on reported staffing shortages. Below are the responses we've gotten so far:


Norfolk Fire-Rescue does not have any staffing shortages. All riding positions on fire and ambulance apparatus are filled each day. There are currently 13 vacancies in the department. A full roster is 506 positions and NFR currently has 493 of them filled. The department’s next fire academy is planned for July 2022 and the hiring process is currently underway.

The current starting pay for fire recruit is $41,200. Pay for a fully trained firefighter starts at $43,724. Starting pay for fully trained firefighter-paramedic is $55,002. This is the current salary structure. The proposed 2023 Fiscal Year budget goes before Council for approval tomorrow.


Suffolk Fire & Rescue currently has 13 vacancies. Starting annual salary for recruit Firefighter is $47,278.


The Chesapeake Fire Department continues to provide uninterrupted emergency services to the citizens of Chesapeake. Staffing levels are supported as needed through voluntary overtime hirebacks. We currently have 21 sworn vacancies with a recruit academy of 30 scheduled to begin in July of 2022.

Chesapeake has a competitive pay and benefit package, with a starting salary of $45,213 for Firefighter/EMT and $47,502 for Firefighter/Paramedic. After graduation from the fire academy, both positions increase to $50,326 with paramedics receiving an additional $5,000.

Newport News

We currently have 8 firefighter/medic openings. A new recruit class starts next month that will have 15 recruits. Regarding pay, the City's Classification and Pay Plan is available online - you will want to look at page 24 for the Public Safety schedule. Firefighter/medic recruits start at $45,213 and move to $48,800 after completion of the fire and EMS training.

City council members will be voting on the city's budget on Tuesday. Members of the union plan to attend to again address the council.