BY CAITLIN SINETT – Fox 43
PENN TOWNSHIP, PERRY COUNTY, Pa. — Emergency medical services throughout Perry County are low on funds and volunteers.
Over the years, EMS in the county have made a costly shift from volunteer workers to paid employees.
Darryl Croutharmel, the president of Shermans Dale EMS, said, “It’s a service the community expects at the price you’d pay for volunteers, but there are just not volunteers to do it.”
In addition to running out of people, the organizations are running out of money.
Kraig Nace, the chief of operations for Duncannon EMS, said, “We’ve got ambulances that are 15-23 years old actually is the oldest one that we are nickel-and-diming trying to keep it in service. And ultimately if we can’t pay the bills, we can’t continue to provide the service.”
Nace said part of the issue is they’re not getting money they need from insurance companies.
“We have a lot of patients that are on Medicare and Medicaid, which are fixed reimbursements that don’t even cover the costs of providing the service,” he said.
If they can’t get the money and the people, the consequences could be devastating. Services across Perry County could be shut down and EMS from other parts of the state would have to respond to calls.
That means the response time could more than double to get to patients.
Nace said, “For a sick patient, for someone encountering a stroke, severe trauma, cardiac issues, heart attack and things, it could be very critical. It could be life or death.”
Some people who live in the area are concerned.
Gloria Smith, from New Bloomfield, said, “For the people in the surrounding areas, that’s going to take a long time.”
Some of the solutions could involve consolidating the services in Perry County or asking the municipalities to provide more funding. Officials said the municipalities only cover about five percent of EMS costs.
Croutharmel said, “I think municipalities should seriously consider how much they value having an ambulance in their community and whether that’s worth a tax increase, sometimes small sometimes large, in their communities to make that happen.”