We started as a small volunteer organization in 1965 and have grown as our community has. We currently cover over 400 square miles in Monroe and Pike counties and handle over 3000 calls a year. Our coverage area includes Lehman Township, Middle Smithfield Township, Smithfield Township, Porter Township, and portions of Price Township. Our main stations are on Winona Falls Road, behind Foxmoor Village, and in the Village Center in Marshalls Creek Complex. We also have a unit housed in the Lehman Township Municipal complex.
Beginning March 9, 2022, Bushkill Emergency Corps will become the secondary agency for Lehman Township and parts of Middle Smithfield Township on the Lehman Township side of the Bushkill Creek off Winona Falls Road. The primary ambulance service for these communities will be Lehman Pike EMS. For residents of Middle Smithfield Township whose landlines begin with 588, your 9-1-1 calls will now be routed to the Pike County Communications Center. Cell phones may "bounce" off any number of towers, therefore both Monroe County and Pike County Communications Centers are prepared to handle your 9-1-1 calls. Bushkill Emergency Corps continues to serve the communities-at-large of Middle Smithfield, Smithfield, and Price Townships.
May 2020 - With their services already in precarious financial situations, the coronavirus pandemic could be the death knell for many EMS agencies in Butler County.
“We were in a crisis before this,” said Jay Grinnell, Harmony EMS president. “COVID-19 is going to be what's going to break the back of a lot of ambulance services.”
Call volumes are down 25 percent to 40 percent across the state, he said. Because ambulance services receive nearly all of their income from payments for service, the drop in call volume directly impacts their bottom line.
Ted Fessides, Cranberry Township EMS chief, estimated the EMS lost about $70,000 this year from its decreased dispatches — nearly two full-time EMTs' annual wages, he added.
Layoffs have begun
These losses already have materialized in layoffs and staffing changes. Cranberry cut the hours of two administrative employees, while Quality EMS, based in Adams Township, laid off five people, mostly transport employees, according to director Erica Corso.
“The call volume just isn't there to have them on staff right now,” she said.
While the layoffs have yet to affect clinical employees — the paramedics and EMTs — that's a future possibility as the lower number of calls means less of a need to run concurrent crews, Corso said.
Quality runs two crews at all hours, but it's possible right now to cover all calls with one.
The future possibilities may be more dire than that. In Cranberry — where Fessides told township supervisors in January the financial outlook already was less than good — the pandemic greatly exacerbated an existing problem.
“If we do nothing and we just do business as usual, with these decreased calls we're going to be gone by July,” Fessides said.
Nonemergency calls nonexistent
Gene Troyan, Butler Ambulance Service's director of operations, said his group has been trying to find exactly why the calls have gone down. Nonemergency calls are virtually nonexistent, Troyan said, but other dispatches have decreased still.
“I think people are maybe thinking, 'Oh, I don't want to go to the hospital, I don't want to go in public,' ” Troyan said.
Fessides said even calls for heart attacks and strokes are down alongside the nonemergency calls. Dispatches to car accidents have shrunk, too, because people are driving less.
“For years, the big joke was, 'Oh man, if people would only use EMS and the ER for what it was designed for, emergencies and everything,' ” he said. “Well, that's what we got. And it turns out it's terrible.”
Even additional sources of income — CPR classes, home childproofing, donations from car seat inspections — have dried up due to social distancing measures.
While that makes up just 5 percent of Cranberry's budget, Fessides said, that's roughly $8,000 a month that won't be there.
Unlike police departments, EMS agencies aren't funded by municipalities, nor do they receive fire tax revenues like fire departments. But they still have to pay for gas, utilities, vehicles and, most importantly, employees.
Nearly all of the ambulance services in the county have applied for small business loans and grants to float them through the crisis.
Grinnell said Harmony EMS received a roughly $14,000 grant, but added that the monthly bills are more than $100,000.
“We did get a little bit of financial assistance from a federal grant that was based on your Medicare reimbursement,” Grinnell said. “In the long run, it keeps the place open for a couple of days.”
Payroll protection program loans, as well as grants through the Small Business Administration, are possibilities too, Fessides said. However, approval and disbursement of these funds can take at least a month.
“Those things take time,” Fessides said. “And unfortunately that's not something we have a lot of.”
Township trying to help
Cranberry Township manager Jerry Andree said the township has been in conversation with CTEMS about how it can help the ambulance service during the crisis, if possible.
“Obviously, the township does not want them to lay employees off because we want them to continue having the same level of service, so we have been having conversations because the supervisors want the township to have the EMS services the community has come to expect,” he said.
Services that had financial reserves before the pandemic can tap into those, Grinnell said. But the financial situation many ambulance services were in before the pandemic prevented them from having any significant savings.
“EMS is bleeding. Everyone ramped up and was all prepared, but we were on the other side of this,” Fessides said. “Nobody saw the bottom dropping out. We thought we'd be overrun with calls.”
Fun fact: 1949--In the midst of the polio epidemic--a disease that placed tens of thousands of children inside iron lungs, and many thousands more around the country quarantined at home--a young San Diego schoolteacher named Eleanor Abbott invented Candy Land, one of the most popular board games of all time. Abbott created the game inside a polio ward, as a patient herself, with the hope of giving the immobilized children around her a momentary sense of freedom and mobility. As a way of further connecting with the kids, Abbott featured on the game board an illustration of a boy with a leg brace. Milton Bradley was quick to buy the game from Abbott. And to this day, Candy Land continues to be popular, more than 65 years after the disease was eradicated. Of course so many of us played this game as kids, but I found the back story fascinating. Who knew ? Makes me wonder ...what will be invented from this pandemic?
In 1874, Andrew Taylor Still, M.D., D.O., created the concept of treating illnesses within the context of the “whole body.” Thus, the philosophy of osteopathic medicine, which views body systems as interrelated and dependent upon one another, was formed.
Debbie Kulick - Pike and Monroe Life
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Monroe County Community Action Agency (CAA) is updating our three-year Community Needs Assessment. This assessment will identify the top five needs in each county and will be used to guide planning and service provision to low-income families in the Pike and Monroe County service area through the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG). Thank you for your participation!