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Hillsborough Co. firefighters frustrated by department leadership and low morale, survey finds

The survey comes as four paramedics are on paid administrative leave over their response to a woman who later died.

TAMPA, Fla. – Firefighters and paramedics within Hillsborough County Fire Rescue are not happy with how the agency is run, according to an employee survey released by firefighters union Local 2294 on Friday.

The survey comes as four paramedics are on paid administrative leave following their response to a woman who later died.

MORE: Four Hillsborough County Fire Rescue workers suspended after woman dies following lack of care

Crystle Galloway’s mother said the medics didn’t transport the 30-year-old in an ambulance because they insisted she couldn’t afford it, but the paramedics said the mother insisted on taking her daughter to the hospital herself.

MORE: Hillsborough medics will share their side after mother claims inaction led to daughter’s death

“The problem is we're about to fire four fire medics over a lie,” union president Derrick Ryan said following the medics’ pre-disciplinary hearing on Tuesday.

MORE: Recording from Hillsborough Co. medics’ hearing tell similar story after woman dies

Low marks

The 77-question survey, which was conducted in April, was sent to approximately 1,000 fire rescue employees “to confront a number of internal controversies that surfaced not long after the appointment of Dennis Jones to Hillsborough County Fire Rescue Chief,” the union said.

Questions centered around morale, communication, camaraderie, PTSD, fire administration and union officials.

Officials received 596 completed surveys, comprising a 62.2 percent response rate.

Some results:

  • 60.6 percent would not leave their jobs today if they found another one with equal pay and benefits.
  • 92.5 percent disagree that department morale is good, but those numbers go down to 45.8 percent and 39.2 percent when asked about their firehouse/division and crew, respectively.
  • 88.7 percent disagree that there’s clear communications between those in the field and department administration.
  • 77.6 percent disagree that firefighters and paramedics have been or would be treated fairly in disciplinary actions.

Here’s a copy of the full survey:

Hillsborough County Fire Rescue employee survey by Anonymous YhHeJs on Scribd

‘Self-serving’ survey

The survey was initially shared with county officials on May 3, the union said.

“However, the presentation was rebuked at its onset and dismissed by Hillsborough County Administration,” the union said.

County and union officials met two times since “to find a mutual path forward,” but talks stopped on July 11.

“Hillsborough County Administration unexpectedly halted further discussions with Hillsborough County Fire Fighters and appears to have chosen to ignore the troublesome concerns within Fire Rescue that the Survey identifies,” the union said.

Those discussions were related to union contract wage negotiations, Hillsborough County Administrator Mike Merrill said in a statement.

“Its assumptions and methodology are self-serving,” he said of the survey. “Nevertheless, I take seriously all employee concerns. With the agreement of union leadership, I engaged a consultant to facilitate discussions between Fire Rescue management and rank and file employees to iron out any concerns. That process has been underway for weeks.”

While expressing support for Hillsborough County Fire Rescue Chief Dennis Jones, Merrill also questioned the timing of the survey.

“I hope that the union leadership’s decision to bring forward their 'morale survey' at this time, when I am working diligently to deal with the Crystle Galloway tragedy and discipline of the fire medics involved in that matter, is not intended to leverage the union’s position in contract negotiations,” he said.

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