Mt. Pleasant Medic 10 reaches coverage pact with Norvelt, Kecksburg EMS
By A.J. Panian
Published: Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014, 9:01 p.m.
Mt. Pleasant Borough Medic 10 EMS recently reached a pact with Norvelt and Kecksburg EMS that allows the emergency response unit to respond to medical calls in those areas in Mt. Pleasant Township.
“Mt. Pleasant EMS was placed on dual dispatch with Norvelt EMS as of Dec. 1 (2013) at noon, and Kecksburg EMS will utilize us as needed for paramedic assist,” said Mike Oplinger, Medic 10 operations manager.
The move came as a result of a long-planned shutdown of service involving the Medic 930 paramedic unit, which was previously operated for roughly 30 years by Excela Health Frick Hospital.
Oplinger said the arrangement, where Medic 10 staff will help out in responding to emergency calls in the Norvelt and Kecksburg areas, was done with one thing in mind.
“The main concern are the residents living in those areas — that's our number one priority,” he said.
The Medic 930 service, staffed with paramedics paid by Excela, had assisted the Norvelt and Kecksburg volunteer ambulance services on serious calls and administered care for patients in Excela Health Frick's emergency department.
In summer of 2012 township supervisors were told that Frick's Medic 930 service would be disbanded by Dec. 1 of that year.
At the time, Excela Health Frick officials said the move was rooted in the unit's sharply declining call volume, which they attributed, in part, to the fact that Mt. Pleasant Medic 10 emergency unit in early 2011 switched from a volunteer unit to a paid, 24-hour, seven-day-a-week unit with a 23-member staff.
In response, more than 2,000 Mt. Pleasant Township residents signed a petition distributed by officials of Kecksburg EMS imploring Excela Health to extend the Medic 930 service to Dec. 1 of last year, said Ron Struble, the service's safety officer.
“We at Kecksburg EMS would like to thank the residents of Mt. Pleasant Township for backing us,” Struble said.
After Excela Health officials turned over the Medic 930 truck, a Dodge Durango SUV, to Kecksburg EMS in November 2012, the hospital agreed to carry out the extension proposed on the petition.
“Excela Health donated the truck to Kecksburg EMS to aid them with the one or two calls a day Medic 930 would assist with, and retained the remaining two paramedics as employees of the Frick Hospital Emergency Department,” said Lonna Paterline, the hospital's vice president of patient care services.
Meanwhile, Kecksburg EMS kept the truck in operation and has covered the cost of inspections, repairs, insurance, body work and repainting of the vehicle.
“The truck is now in great shape to serve the community,” Struble said.
In addition, Kecksburg EMS officers, including Struble and chief Maureen Hutter, were on the forefront of initiating the new plan for medic coverage with Medic 10, Struble said.
“A plan was developed by Kecksburg EMS and Mt. Pleasant Borough EMS for paramedic-assist coverage, which is in place today,” Struble said.
As of Dec. 1, 2013, the plan in place will provide that independent operation for the long-term paramedic coverage for township residents, he said.
“A team effort was made by all the EMS units and will make the future of EMS flourish for the residents and communities we serve,” Struble said.
Oplinger said several retired volunteers handle the majority of calls for Kecksburg EMS, but the all-volunteer Norvelt EMS is more frequently in need of assistance because most of its staff have full-time paramedic jobs in other areas.
“I think it will be like this for a while. It's in the best interests of the residents of those areas for this to be like this,” Oplinger said.
“That way, when they call 911, and Norvelt volunteer response doesn't answer in five to 10 minutes, there's two to three minutes and we're on our way,” he said.
Oplinger said he does not foresee response-related issues arising as a result of the new arrangement.
“We've got several guys on duty from Mt. Pleasant every shift, and several additional Medic 10 members live in those areas,” Oplinger said. “If we get busy back in the borough, our off-duty officers might be needed to answer calls sometimes.”
Norvelt EMS Chief Josh Janos said he is thankful that Medic 10 staff will be there as a backup responder in that area.
“Medic 10 is doing a fantastic job helping us with coverage. They're coming from basically the same place (as Medic 930 did) so it should be fine,” Janos said. “We'll work with Medic 10, and we will call on other resources if we have to.”
Excela Health Frick emergency room physician Heather Walker said the hospital and its physicians worked “side by side” with the local EMS services during the extension period to make the transition a smooth one.
“We applaud Mt. Pleasant, Norvelt and Kecksburg EMS for working together to continue to support the needs of their communities,” Walker said.
A.J. Panian is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-547-5722 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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