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Deal struck to keep Sewickley ambulance service

| Saturday, June 15, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Sewickley Township's ambulance service will once again be the municipality's official ambulance provider under a tentative agreement with township supervisors, officials said.

The one-year agreement between the Sewickley Township Community Ambulance Service and township supervisors mandates that the Rostraver/West Newton Emergency Services will work with the township service to provide patient services, as well as financial oversight, said Supervisor Wanda Layman.

“I would not have made the decision if they (Rostraver/West Newton Emergency Services) were not handling the financial end,” said Supervisor Alan Fossi.

Supervisor Joseph Kerber said he had been opposed to switching ambulance service and thought that Community Ambulance Service should have been retained once the Rostraver/West Newton service took over the financial operation and made progress in resolving the backlog of bills.

Kerber failed in attempts to give the local ambulance service an additional six months to improve its finances. “It was a bad decision from the get-go,” Kerber said.

The supervisors are expected to vote on the tentative agreement at the board's Wednesday meeting, Layman said. The township has notified the Westmoreland County Department of Public Safety that Community Ambulance Service will be reinstated as the official ambulance service, replacing Jeannette EMS Inc., Layman said.

Lisa Dimon, president of the Community Ambulance Service board, could not be reached for comment.

Community Ambulance Service continued providing ambulance service in Sewickley and Madison, even after the supervisors designated Jeannette EMS in April as the township's official ambulance service. Although Jeannette EMS was to take over on June 1, the township did not have a station prepared for Jeannette's ambulance personnel.

Layman and Fossi voted to remove Community Ambulance Service as Sewickley's official ambulance service after learning that the ambulance service was in such dire financial straits in February that the township had to pay one of the ambulance service's fuel suppliers $3,000 to keep the vehicles running. Community Ambulance Service was found to be more than $200,000 in debt, including about $71,000 that was past due.

“The financial situation (of the ambulance service) had to change. It was never about the patient service,” Layman said of the decision to have Jeannette EMS take over in Sewickley.

The Sewickley ambulance service has been working in partnership with the Rostraver/West Newton Emergency Services for the past few months to resolve its financial problems.

Michael Stangroom, a Rostraver/West Newton Emergency Services supervisors, said the Sewickley ambulance service's financial problems were overstated. It has been “a slow transition” to get the ambulance service in a better financial position, where it now owes about $108,000 and it has eliminated its past due bills, Stangroom said.

Even though the Community Ambulance Service's financial outlook is better than it was a few month ago, “there is a long way to go before they will be out of their serious financial situation,” Layman and Fossi stated in a news release.

The agreement places a Sewickley Township supervisor on the ambulance service board so the township will be aware of the ambulance service's financial operations. Fossi said he likely will be the township's representative on the ambulance service board.

Fossi said he contacted Jeannette EMS Inc. after the agreement was reached and “they were very gracious” about the supervisors' decision to terminate the township's agreement with Jeannette.

Michael Cafasso, operations manager for Jeannette EMS Inc., could not be reached for comment.

Although the township supervisors had rented an office trailer that was placed at the municipal building property as a base for Jeannette EMS, the Jeannette ambulance service never moved to the site. The trailer did not have telephone service and Layman said she was not anticipating that it would be ready until about mid-June.

Through the period of uncertainty over the ambulance service providers, Stangroom said that public support in Sewickley and Madison for the Community Ambulance Service remained strong.

“The public support has been fabulous. You can't ask for more community support,” Stangroom said.

Joe Napsha is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-5252 or jnapsha@tribweb.com.

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