Hearing Examines EMS Crisis in Pennsylvania

HARRISBURG, March 3 – This week, the House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee held a hearing on the EMS crisis in Pennsylvania. State Reps. Christina Sappey and John Lawrence, both of Chester County, requested the hearing after a briefing from West Grove Fire Co. on the impact of hospital closures last November.

Providing testimony at the hearing were the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Bureau of EMS, Ambulance Association of Pennsylvania, Hospital Association of Pennsylvania, Harleysville Area EMS, County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania, West Grove Fire Co., Office of Emergency Services, County of Cameron, West Hempfield Township, Pennsylvania Fire & Emergency Services Institute, Cetronia Ambulance Corps and the PA State Association of Township Supervisors.

Testifiers shared the severe challenges they currently face, such as recruitment and retention of personnel, funding shortfalls, inadequate Medicaid reimbursements and billing constraints, hospital emergency room protocols, and COVID-19 challenges to the EMS system.

Neil Vaughn, president of the West Grove Fire Co., said the EMS crisis seen across the state, combined with the closure of two Chester County hospitals, has increased first responder burnout and emergency response time.

“As a county, it took us from five hospitals to three; two of the three hospitals that we now go to on a regular basis are now outside the commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” Vaughn said. “Our transport times -- to understand a transport time, that’s the amount of time it takes us to leave the scene and arrive at the hospital -- was typically eight minutes, that’s now expanded to thirty to forty minutes. Our turnaround times -- that’s the time that we arrive at the hospital and then we’re available to go into service for the next call -- that went from thirteen minutes to roughly an hour.”

“I am grateful to our committee chairs, Representative Karen Boback and Representative Chris Sainato for holding this hearing to bring attention to this very serious situation,” Sappey said. “During an emergency, every second counts. We rely on highly trained professionals to respond quickly, and our companies are increasingly challenged to provide this service. We should all be very concerned about this. I look forward to working with my colleagues to create solutions that address the EMS crisis.” 

A video recording of the hearing can be found at this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ohP9QHOiCIE.

A photo of the hearing can be found here.