WellSpan Health's decision to stop providing emergency medical services was a financial one -- it was losing millions on the endeavor.
But the company's senior vice president said he hoped a side effect of the move would be to spur the many competing, private EMS providers to join forces for a more efficient, modern system.
"In our region, our model has become very unique, if not antiquated," Keith Noll said in announcing the decision last summer. "Our presence in the market was actually becoming an impediment in moving things forward."
WellSpan began providing advanced life support services 33 years ago and started leasing paramedics to local ambulances four or five years ago, said Noll, who also is president of WellSpan York Hospital.
In August, the company announced it was ending contracts with four local ambulance companies, citing financial losses -- $1.6 million in 2012 alone -- as well as the outdated system that led to an unequal spread of service across York County.
At the time, Noll said WellSpan would work with the affected companies to ensure a smooth transition -- and with the larger emergency medical community on creating a better delivery system:
"We have to start to get the community to regionalize," he said.
With the expiration of its final contract Jan. 4, WellSpan officially is out of the EMS business -- and Noll's vision of a modern system is coming into focus.
Four of the companies' former clients -- Jacobus Lions Ambulance Club, Grantley Fire and EMS, Spring Grove Area Ambulance and West York Ambulance -- now are operating on their own, and all say they're considering mergers or regionalization in the future.
That might be a matter of survival -- if WellSpan, the largest employer in York County, can't make the outdated system financially feasible, what chance do small companies have going forward?
But Spring Grove's Capt. Bill Pero said the main idea behind regionalization is ensuring emergency medical services are available to everyone in the community.
"I don't care what it says, I don't care what color it is -- if someone needs it, it's there," he said.
That's just the attitude Noll was hoping for.
"I am really encouraged by the direction we're heading," he said. "I am happy to see that many of the ambulance companies and municipalities have started to think just a little bit differently."
We echo that sentiment and hope more municipalities start thinking the same way about police and fire coverage.
In Pennsylvania, these services also are provided in an outdated, redundant way that sooner or later individual municipalities won't be able to afford.