Western Chester County emergency responders ‘fear’ loss of forward life support with loss of Medic 93 – Daily Local

PARKESBURG – Western Chester County first responders gathered to discuss the looming emergency crisis resulting from Tower Health’s recent decision to suspend advanced care in the area with the closure of Medic 93, effective September 1 .

“It’s a crisis,” said Chief Brian Gathercole of the Keystone Valley Fire Department.

Gathercole organized and led the Wednesday night briefing at Parkesburg Point. The stated goal was to help explain to members of the community – strangers, neighbors and friends – and to get everyone involved in creating a better system of emergency management services for the region with a particular focus on maintaining advanced life – which is crucial for emergency responders. doing their job when helping people in need.

“When an alarm goes off, we go out and do our job,” Gathercole told the packed house of more than 40 people, mostly first responders, although some regional lawmakers also attended, ranging from the mayor of Parkesburg to the president. of the Modena council and nearby city council members.

“It’s a county-wide problem,” Gathercole said.

Landenberg resident Bill Wohl of Medic 94 delivers a speech in Parkesburg on Wednesday. (JEN SAMUEL — MEDIANEWS GROUP)

It should be noted that Chester County Commissioner Josh Maxwell was present. He spoke at the close of the meeting, which lasted almost two hours.

In June, Tower Health announced it would close Medic 93 services in parts of Chester County, which until earlier this year were also served by two recently closed hospitals.

Tower Health purchased Jennersville Regional Hospital and Brandywine Hospital about six years ago. The entity then closed the facilities a few months ago, closing Jennersville Regional around midnight on New Year’s Eve and closing Brandywine on January 31.

With these closures, doctors are traveling greater distances to bring patients to more distant hospitals.

According to emergency officials at Wednesday night’s meeting in Parkesburg, this matter will be significantly escalated by Tower Health’s decision to terminate Medic 93 services in Western Chester County.

Tower Health said it will transfer Advanced Life Support coverage to other local responders in affected municipalities alongside the Chester County Department of Emergency Services.

“First it was our two hospitals, now it’s our forward life support service,” Gathercole said Wednesday.

Earlier this year, Chester County lost Jennersville Hospital and Brandywine Hospital, both closed by Tower Health.

“Tower Health is a not-for-profit health system,” Richard Wells, the system’s director for corporate communications and government relations, said April 3.

In June, a deal was reached in which Tower Health sold Jennersville Regional Hospital, plus 24 adjacent acres and two office buildings, to ChristianaCare for $8 million.

Still, Tower Health isn’t done making an impact in the county via departures.

Over the next two months, areas of West Chesco formerly served by the two still closed Tower Health hospitals will lose the services of the West Reading-based Tower Health Advanced Life Support ambulances, known as Tower Direct.

On June 7, Dr. Charles Barbera, Senior Vice President of Tower Health and President of Reading Hospital, sent a letter to Chester County municipalities served by Tower Direct’s Medic 93 informing them that effective September 1, Medic 93 will cease to operate in areas served by the old hospitals, as previously reported.

“This is a decision we did not take lightly, but it is necessary following the closure of hospitals in Brandywine and Jennersville,” Barbera said.

“We must now take steps that will better support the communities served by hospitals in Reading, Phoenixville and Pottstown while improving our operational performance,” Barbera said.

Until September 1, Tower Direct operates three units in Western Chester County: MICU 93, which still operates out of the old Brandywine Hospital, Medic 393 in Coatesville and Medic 293 at the Keystone Valley Fire Department in Parkesburg .

In addition to Coatesville, Parkesburg and Caln, these units provide primary advanced life support coverage in Modena, South Coatesville, West Brandywine, East Brandywine, Newlin and West Bradford.

On September 1, Tower Direct, which purchased Medic 93 EMS several years ago along with now closed hospitals in Jennersville and Brandywine, will merge Parkesburg, Caln and Coatesville operations into Medic 93’s current location in Elverson and a all-new location in Honey Brook.

As a result, these areas will be serviced by Westwood Fire Company EMS units and possibly Minquas Fire Company units in Downingtown, which could stretch the already occupied EMS units thinner than they already are, as previously reported. .

Chief John Sly of the Westwood Fire Company expresses concern for the community over the impending departure of the local advanced life support system as Tower Health plans to relocate Medic 93, which currently serves the Western Chester County area, elsewhere.  (JEN SAMUEL??
Chief John Sly of the Westwood Fire Company expresses concern for the community over the impending departure of the local advanced life support system as Tower Health plans to relocate Medic 93, which currently serves the Western Chester County area, elsewhere. (JEN SAMUEL — MEDIANEWS GROUP)

Chester County is currently protected by 32 EMS agencies providing rapid response to 911 medical emergencies, however, most offer basic life-saving assistance – not advanced life-saving assistance, as with Medic 94 whose coverage area expands. spans 18 townships in southern Chester County, from Nottingham to Franklin.

Still, Medic 94 — with its Advanced Life Service (ALS) capabilities — is preparing to step up and help the residents of Parkesburg and beyond once Tower Health withdraws its ALS from Western Chester County on September 1.

“Your problem is our problem,” Medic 94’s Bill Wohl said during remarks at the Keystone briefing in Parkesburg on Wednesday.

Of EMS services in 2022, he said, “It’s not profitable. It’s not even economically viable on its own.

Yet good people will continue to help those in need. And Wohl, like everyone in the room on Wednesday, remains very aware of that.

If there is an emergency in Parkesburg on September 2, Medic 94 ALS service providers, based throughout Penn Township County, will be there if needed.

“We have to come if called,” Wohl said.

“Tower Health has let this community down,” he said.

Medic 94, unlike Medic 93 which is now owned by Tower Health and operated through its TowerDIRECT business, is an independent, not-for-profit organization.

Wohl said it took 20 years, however, ultimately the 18 municipalities in Medic 94’s direct service area are now contributing directly financially to full ALS funding for their residents.

And although Pennsylvania currently operates on an annual budget of $40.8 billion, funds are not allocated to pay community firefighters and other local emergency first responders, including ALS providers. If not provided locally or regionally by a health system like Tower, the onus is on local organizations to re-emerge and answer the call, as Medic 94 did, but with essential support from community funds. 18 municipalities, their mission is to serve .

Of the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s $80 annual budget, no funds are allocated to pay for the operating costs of local fire departments performing advanced life support services from their community centers.

As Tower Direct is cutting its ALS services from the area, Modena Council President Jennifer Daywalt said on Wednesday that Chester County’s smallest municipality is introducing a new local levy to help contribute to living services progress for their community. His remarks led to a round of applause, the only time people cheered at the Keystone meeting in Parkesburg.

“In Chester County, it will ultimately be up to our municipalities to ensure that our EMS organizations have the funding they need to operate,” said Charles Brogan IV. He is president of the Chester County EMS Council, Inc.

Yet only a few municipalities in Western Chester County attended the Keystone meeting on Wednesday – despite the topic impacting all residents who live in the area – the immediate loss of advanced local life support services thanks to Tower Health’s decision to close shop as of September 1.

To further aggravate the difficulties faced by EMS, there is not only a shortage of staff, but also the expenses far exceed the income they are able to collect from insurance bills, as noted earlier.

“The vast majority of our medical supplies and drug costs have increased significantly,” Brogan said. “In 2019, we paid $6 for a box of gloves. That same box of gloves is now $14.

The energy index has risen 41.6% over the past 12 months, the Department of Labor reported last month. The gasoline index rose 59.9% during this period, the largest 12-month increase in this index since March 1980.

Last June, inflation in the United States reached 9.1%, breaking a record set 40 years ago. For first responders, the impact hits hard. Even so, the numbers continue to rise.

According to the Office of the State Fire Marshal in Harrisburg, in the 1970s there were an average of about 300,000 active firefighters statewide. Today there are far fewer, around 38,000. Some first responders say the number is closer to 30,000 – or less.

Not everyone, in fact most people, can afford to volunteer these days. Yet the need to help others in need has increased in society, not diminished.

“I volunteer for my life,” said Chief John Sly of the Westwood Fire Company.

Yet he volunteers to make a difference in his community.

About advanced life support, the chief said: “We need this service.”

“It’s a crisis,” said fire chief Brian Gathercole of the Keystone Valley Fire Department.
Chester County Commissioner Josh Maxwell said state law prohibits the county from creating an emergency levy to help fund advanced local life support services.  (JEN SAMUEL??
Chester County Commissioner Josh Maxwell said state law prohibits the county from creating an emergency levy to help fund advanced local life support services. (JEN SAMUEL – MEDIANEWS GROUP)
People are waiting for the meeting to start.  (JEN SAMUEL??
Rescue workers await the start of the July 27 meeting to discuss the impending departure of Medic 93. (JEN SAMUEL — MEDIANEWS GROUP)

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