Local medical group offers EMS services for region

To help ease the growing burdens on municipal fire and emergency medical service agencies, Susquehanna Regional EMS is reaching out with a partnership proposal, an official told the Lycoming County commissioners Thursday.

“EMS response is something that’s become significantly restrained,” said Mark Trueman, deputy chief manager of prehospital operations for the organization.

To combat those restraints, the organization is offering to provide a “small stipend” to municipal fire and EMS agencies for trading ambulance services for quick response units with the understanding that Susquehanna Regional EMS would instead provide ambulance transportation, he said.

In addition to the stipend, the organization would provide direction from its medical director, resupply medical equipment, and provide EMS continuing education and the cost for initial EMT training for one person per year, Trueman said.

With firefighter training standards increasing and the number of volunteers decreasing, he said trading ambulance service for quick response might help take a load off smaller companies. With quick response, responders would be responsible for providing medical attention to patients until Susquehanna Regional EMS arrives and takes over responsibility.

This also cuts down on the amount of time spent on each emergency, he added.

“Being able to focus on firefighting as well as quick response, that can help to isolate it a bit more and not make it seem like such an overwhelming burden,” Trueman said. “It does come with commitment, though. It would require those individual municipalities and collectives to commit their primary response area to us.”

Trueman’s proposal followed the county planning department’s third presentation in an eight-week series dedicated to the county comprehensive plan draft. Deputy Director Kim Wheeler’s presentation focused on the fragmentation of local government, a large portion of which details the struggle fire and EMS agencies face in providing services to their communities with suggestions for how to cope.

“Extensive training hours and those costs required to become volunteer firemen or EMS personnel are making it difficult for new recruits to commit the time required to be a volunteer,” Wheeler said. More complete information from the planning department’s report will be in Sunday’s Sun-Gazette.

The primary project proposed to help amend this issue is the creation of a countywide EMS Response Plan, which would provide framework for how EMS agencies will collectively manage, administer and provide services to all 52 municipalities in the county when they are unable to provide 24/7 coverage as is required by law, she said.

Through the comprehensive planning process, discussions already are taking place, Wheeler added, and Susquehanna Regional EMS has gotten a head start in facilitating conversation particularly with its “membership-based approach to regional EMS provision.”

“It’s an open, evolving plan. It doesn’t have to be set in stone,” Trueman said.

In another matter, the commissioners approved a plan to change Resource Management Services operations, including eliminating the assistant operations supervisor position and creating both the operations supervisor and lead equipment operator positions. The reorganization also involves increasing the starting wage for fully qualified heavy equipment operators from $16.59 to $18 per hour, which means increasing the pay of five current staff members to that level, said Human Resources Deputy Director Roxanne Grieco.

“We don’t want to lose people to Central Susquehanna Valley Thruway, and it’s that time of year when they’re hiring lots of equipment operators,” explained Commissioner Jack Mckernan. “We don’t want to get in a position where we have a landfill but we don’t have anybody to do the work.”

Specific personnel actions related to that reorganization, such as the equipment operators’ increased pay, will be addressed next week, Grieco added.

In other business, the commissioners:

• Approved the purchase of 18,720 flags for $10,577 from Flagzone LLC for Veterans Affairs. The flags are an annual purchase for all veterans and all cemeteries in the county.

• Hired Joseph Strausser as a full-time replacement truck driver for Resource Management Services at $15.22 per hour effective Monday.

In addition to McKernan, Commissioners Tony Mussare and Rick Mirabito were present. A meeting will be held at 10 a.m. Tuesday solely to open bids for food products for the prison and Pre-Release Center, which is done quarterly.

The next full meeting will be held at 10 a.m. Thursday.