PA County ambulance companies struggling with low money, staff

By  – ABC27


DUNCANNON, PA. (WHTM) – A lack of money is leading to what some EMS employees are calling a “crisis situation” in Perry County.

Employee and volunteer numbers are down at many agencies. Kraig Nace, Duncannon EMS Chief of Operations, says getting people to sign up for the job, which doesn’t pay well, is a challenge.

Nace adds that the amount they’re reimbursed through insurance companies, Medicare, and Medicaid are minimal and doesn’t cover the growing cost of doing business.

“Insurances increase, the supplies and equipment, the cost to be licensed as an EMS agency have just continued to increase while the reimbursements – if they haven’t decreased, they’ve remained the same,” Nace said.

“We’re making do with what we have, but we have no capital investment. We’ve gone through our savings. We’ve got some money in the bank to pay the day-to-day bills, but we’ve got no reserves.”

Some ambulance companies have been forced to close in Perry County. Others, also faced with a depleted staff, aren’t manned around the clock, which is having an impact on response times.

“When that happens, it creates a domino effect; that the next agency down the road, which could be 10 or 20 miles away, will then respond and cover that call,” Nace said. “And when you add the crew challenges to that – that the crew isn’t readily available at the station or isn’t already on schedule – you may wait 5, 10, 15 minutes to get a crew together to respond. So, you’re 10 minutes out before you get out the door.”

Duncannon EMS is looking for part-time staff and volunteers.

The lack of money also is affecting their equipment. Their newest truck is 9 years old, and one truck from 1994 is still in service.

“The insurance companies that don’t pay us directly, that don’t pay the agencies providing the service directly, need to have their hand forced by our representatives in Harrisburg,” Nace said, “or there will be a very painful time where there is no service or there’s two or three ambulances in the county trying to cover the whole thing.”

The state House this week approved legislation that would require insurance companies to reimburse ambulance companies when patients receive medical care but are not transported to a hospital.