2017-03-18 / Front Page

Ray of hope for emergency services

Officials are feeling a bit more optimistic about the future of emergency services in Cameron

County after participating in a roundtable discussion on issues facing local EMS agencies last week.

Representing the county at the meeting in Port Allegany were Commissioners Phil Jones and Lori Reed, Cameron County Ambulance Service (CCAS) representatives Bill Pennington and Sam Olivett, Emergency Management Director Kevin Johnson and Shippen Township supervisor Bill Hopwood.

Among topics discussed at the gathering were the array of economic difficulties faced by EMS services across the state, recruitment and training efforts, and pending legislation in the Pa. House of Representatives to remedy those problems.

House Bill 1796 would give local agencies more training money by adding $10 to traffic citations and $25 to some criminal case fees.

Another bill would increase reimbursements for Medicaid patients who receive ambulance services. Currently, ambulance services receive $120 for each trip, or $200 for Advanced Life Support (ALS).

Other proposals being deliberated in Harrisburg would relax state regulations affecting emergency service providers.

“This was definitely a more positive discussion than the other meetings we’ve had in the past,” said Jones. “The legislation should really help and we’re hopeful that it will pass soon.”

“I think people are beginning to realize the impact it would have if we didn’t have EMS services in our communities,” Reed observed.

Reimbursements made by insurance companies for emergency medical services now must be made directly to the EMS agency, as opposed to the individual. In the past, many insurers sent payments to the policy holder. Often, the funds were never remitted to the service agency.

That has only aggravated the financial challenges of Cameron County Ambulance, which has been plagued by a reduction in volunteers, rising costs and inadequate reimbursements for rendered services. State-mandated training requirements aggravate the situation.

Increasingly, ambulance services have been turning to borough, township and city governments to subsidize their operations. Last year alone, Emporium Borough, Shippen, Lumber and Portage Townships pledged more than $72,000 in shale gas “impact fee” revenue to assist the struggling agency.

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