CITRUS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — When 8 On Your Side spoke with Nature Coast EMS Battalion Chief Dan Brady last week, he called the organization’s staffing situation dire. This week, he’s calling it beyond critical.

In just the past seven days, 10 paramedics and EMTs have turned in their resignations. Brady says the agency is currently all hands on deck.

“Every able person with a paramedic or EMT license is getting on an ambulance whenever needed,” said Brady, who added delays are unavoidable. “There’s not been a major delay, there definitely has been a delay. You couldn’t say there wasn’t. The more people that leave, the higher risk we are for significant delays.”

Nature Coast EMS has the lowest starting pay of any EMS provider in the Tampa Bay area, with the starting salary for paramedics at just below $13 an hour. By comparison, Hernando County starts paramedics at $19.96 an hour. Ocala paramedics start at $20.83 and if you’re a Sunstar EMS paramedic in Pinellas County, your starting salary is $22.04.

The pay, combined with the stress of increased COVID calls, has faithful employees looking elsewhere.

“Almost everything is COVID. I was on a truck earlier today, every single call was COVID,” said Brady. “At a certain point, it just gets like tiring and then you start to think, ‘what am I taking home to my family? What am I exposing myself to?’ And that’s what these people are thinking. “

Last week, administrators with Nature Coast EMS went before county commissioners, asking for additional federal dollars to help them bump up salaries. They have to go back before the commission in a few weeks with another presentation.

In the meantime, citizens like Marilyn Watson may have to wait a bit longer if they need an ambulance.

“Should be a concern to all of us,” said Watson. “I mean, any of us could need an ambulance at any time.”

We reached out to Citrus County Administrator Randy Oliver and went by his office for comment on the situation, but a county worker said he was unavailable.