Municipalities in Pennsylvania are responsible for many things – parks and recreation facilities, police services, snow removal and stormwater management to name a few. But did you know that municipalities are also required by state law to ensure the provision of emergency medical services? They are. And EMS services in our community, and our region, are in jeopardy.
The Local EMS Crisis
EMS services in our community are provided by Northwest EMS, a non-profit organization. Northwest EMS was recognized in 2020 as the Pennsylvania EMS Agency of the Year, awarded by the Pennsylvania Emergency Health Services Council and the Pennsylvania Department of Health. Unfortunately, however, the organization’s future is at risk. Why? Insufficient revenue from subscriptions, municipal contributions and insurance reimbursements, combined with rising costs.
Northwest EMS has operated at a deficit for the past six years. These deficits have been covered by proceeds from the organization’s investments, but those investments continue to decline. The expected deficit for 2022 is over $500,000. Unless this crisis is addressed, Northwest EMS will be insolvent in a few years.
Northwest EMS is not alone. This is a state-wide crisis and other areas of the state are faced with losing essential emergency services, or facing reductions in service and long wait times, for what could be life-or-death situations.
The Local Solution
Municipal leaders in the region and Northwest EMS’ Board of Directors have been meeting since 2018 to confront this crisis. At the start of 2021, a committee of municipal leaders and Northwest EMS leaders began studying the situation in earnest and exploring alternatives.
The committee is proposing the creation of a regional Emergency Services Authority to address the challenges that jeopardize essential emergency services in our community and fulfill the statutory requirement for municipalities to provide EMS services with more fiscal stability. As a collaboration among municipalities, the Authority would provide emergency medical services and EMS administrative support to municipalities throughout its service area. It is believed to be the best step forward, and the most fiscally responsible option, to ensure that EMS services continue to be available, potentially saving your life or the life of your loved one.
As proposed, the authority creates an opportunity to replace municipal contributions and membership contributions with a reasonable and uniform annual fee to property owners, on par with today’s Northwest EMS subscription rates.
The annual fee is estimated to be between $70-$85 per residential housing unit (or $6-7 per month). Separate tiers would be set for commercial and institutional properties.
Founding municipalities would each have representation on the Authority’s Board, which once incorporated will be responsible for determining the actual fees. The Authority would advertise and hold public hearings to allow the community to have a voice on proposed services and rates. The community will then continue to have a voice in the Authority, even after it is formed.
EMS Services You’ll Receive
What would you receive from the regional Emergency Services Authority?
- Readiness to answer calls if emergency medical services are needed
- No residual bills for EMS services if your insurance pays toward an ambulance bill
- 50% off your ambulance bill if you have no insurance or if your entire bill goes toward your insurance deductible
The regional Emergency Services Authority would become the new entity to provide EMS in our community. The Authority would consist of the same outstanding people and deliver the same outstanding service for which Northwest EMS is known.
Learn More and Support EMS
Municipalities that have passed resolutions indicating interest in exploring and possibly joining the regional Emergency Services Authority are Clay Township, Conewago Township, Conoy Township, East Donegal Township, Elizabethtown Borough, Elizabeth Township, Manheim Borough, Marietta Borough, Mount Joy Township, Penn Township, Rapho Township and West Donegal Township.
While the EMS crisis and proposed regional Emergency Services Authority has been discussed at numerous public meetings and reported in local news media, you are encouraged to learn more by visiting SavingEMSforNWLancaster.org. There you’ll find frequently asked questions and an anticipated timeline.
Based on the current timeline for the proposed Authority, the earliest EMS services would transition from Northwest EMS to the new Authority is the start of 2024. Northwest EMS will continue to provide EMS services to our community in 2023 and will be conducting its annual subscription campaign this fall to help fund its operations for the year. Please watch your mailbox for Northwest EMS’s subscription mailer and consider subscribing for 2023.
EMS is an essential public service. It is essential that, as a community, we ensure that emergency services continue to be ready and available to answer the call.