Testifiers detail challenges facing emergency management services in PA

Lack of funding, low staffing among main issues

RADNOR, May 5—The House Majority Policy Committee convened a hearing Friday morning in Delaware County to discuss emergency management services in Pennsylvania and the daily challenges facing these first responders.

“From a lack of proper funding to low staffing levels, EMS agencies in Pennsylvania face significant barriers every day. While these hindrances are nothing new, they continue to impact our first responders’ abilities to do their jobs,” said hearing host Rep. Lisa Borowski (D-Delaware). “It’s time we take meaningful action in Harrisburg to address these concerns and help the people that dedicate their lives to helping our communities.”

Friday’s hearing was held at the Radnor Fire Company in Delaware County. It featured testimony from local fire and EMS companies, along with county and township officials. One of the biggest obstacles these first responders face is access to adequate funding. With operating and equipment costs on the rise, Radnor Fire Company Brian Zimmerman said fundraising on its own can no longer fill the gap.

“The cost of services and goods and has changed drastically over the years and has reached a point where an agency can no longer BBQ their way to a new fire truck or ambulance,” Zimmerman testified. “No single piece of legislation will solve the overall funding problem for emergency services in Pennsylvania. It will take a coordinated effort at the federal, state and local level in coordination with the fire and EMS agencies.”

Testifiers also told members about the declining workforce while fire and EMS companies struggle with recruitment and retention efforts. According to testimony, there is a severe shortage of paid and volunteer first responders, with an annual turnover rate of 30%.

“A decrease in the EMS workforce equates to less resources and staffed ambulances, which leads to increased response times and the need for mutual aid responses. Any failure in the EMS system directly impacts morbidity and mortality, especially in rural Pennsylvania,” said Donald DeReamus, Legislative Chair of the Ambulance Association of Pennsylvania (AAP).

Testifiers made a handful of recommendations that would go a long way toward addressing these issues, including Borowski’s Mileage Reimbursement legislation, allowing relief funding to be used for EMS and staffing, implementing a statewide ambulance fee schedule with all insurers, and regulatory changes to reduce red tape, among others. Full testimony from Friday’s hearing can be found here.

“Time and time again we’ve heard from EMS and fire officials in Pennsylvania that they’re not receiving adequate financial support from the state, which is the root cause of a lot of the other issues they’re facing,” said Majority Policy Chairman Ryan Bizzarro. “These are people that selflessly put their lives on the line to protect our communities. They have our backs, now we need to have theirs. It’s time to go to work in Harrisburg and give them the tools they need to succeed.”

Information about this hearing and other House Majority Policy Committee hearings can be found at pahouse.com/policy.