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UPMC receives $100,000 grant for ‘ambulance bus’

UPMC Susquehanna has received a $100,000 grant from the PPL Foundation to fund a special response vehicle that was used for the first time on Monday to bring COVID vaccinations to Williamsport senior residents in a high-rise building.

“This project is a long time coming,” Jim Slotterback, UPMC manager of emergency preparedness, said. “This is a community project that will benefit us all.”

The large “ambulance bus,” Slotterback says, can hold 15 non-ambulatory patients, 10 wheelchair or stretcher patients, five crew members and is “easily configurable” depending on the necessary circumstances.

“I’m still in awe that it is here,” he said.

The vehicle’s primary role includes helping for large evacuations during power outages or unforeseen situations, or severe situations in motor vehicle accidents.

This “special response vehicle” will eventually also be used for mobile clinics, screening appointments, vaccinations and even on-site preparedness at the Little League World Series, according to Sherry Watts, Susquehanna Health Foundation vice-president.

Eventually the vehicle will have solar panels and an awning as well as remote monitoring and WiFi to connect to hospital networks. It also includes a back ramp that allows the vehicle to be lower in the back to help patients inside, much like many ambulance vehicles.

“This is a valuable piece of equipment,” she said. “We are so pleased to have this in the community.”

The vehicle will mostly be used by Susquehanna Regional EMS workers but according to Watts, there are also UPMC Williamsport staff also being trained.

“This shows this community a sense of comfort,” Tracie Witter, regional affairs director of PPL Electric Utilities.

According to Witter, this was the number one scoring application for the grant.

“Safety is really important (to PPL),” she said. “This is the top of the agenda … it aligns with the culture of safety.”

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