WATCHDOG REPORT: EMS crises grows in Pennsylvania with unique challenges
The fear is felt across the nation. EMS providers continue to struggle and a Mercer County ambulance provider hopes an upcoming gathering to sound the alarm once again, will do something "before it's too late."
"Now we are truly getting to the end of the road," Chief of Superior Ambulance Services of Grove City, Pennsylvania, Doug Dick said, "There are areas that we respond now that take us 30 min to 40 minutes to get to."
Responders point to cities far and wide that've shut down ambulance services because of staffing shortages, higher costs, lack of funding, and low wages, among a laundry list of growing challenges.
"If something isn't done to help out and maybe buy a little time, there's a good chance that areas aren't going to have an ambulance service and that's happening across Pennsylvania and that's happening across the country," Dick said.
You may assume EMS providers are reimbursed when they assist in an emergency using their resources. It turns out, that is often not the case. If an ambulance responds to an individual who refuses a ride to the ER, Dick said EMS doesn't get paid. That's about one in every three calls, and for Superior Ambulance Service, a loss of $1,000,000 during 2021.
In addition to that universal challenge, Dick said there are a lack of laws specifically for EMS funding in Pennsylvania. This means EMS providers are left with minimal options to acquire the money they need to save the lives of those who depend on them.
Rather, the law allows local jurisdictions to set aside funds to cover a broad range of emergency services as a whole, but that does not ensure money for EMS specifically.
"Unfortunately what we have seen is the local municipalities have not been directing any funds to EMS," he said.
He said one alternative that would help EMS is enacting a 1-percent sales tax statewide.
Dick said his provider is holding a town hall meeting on January 18th at Grove City Area High School, where he plans to educate the public and bring more awareness to the issue.