Just about one year ago, WellSpan Health announced it would pull out of emergency medical services.
Since then, the health care system discontinued its advanced life support services and the leasing of paramedics and emergency medical technicians to local ambulance companies.
But it hasn't pulled out of the field completely, said Keith Noll, senior vice president of WellSpan and president of York Hospital.
WellSpan has taken on a partnership role: It's starting a medical director program, which will provide physician services to area ambulance clubs, and has partnered with Harrisburg Area Community College for its EMS training program, Noll said.
And on Wednesday, WellSpan announced the creation of a large fund to support regionalization of EMS in York County.
Grants: WellSpan established a $500,000 fund through the York County Community Foundation and will match additional contributions, up to $250,000, Noll said. The organization hopes to grow the fund to $1 million.
WellSpan encourages regionalization because the county has a very high concentration of EMS providers in central York but not in rural areas, Noll said. EMS providers that regionalize can give care geographically based on need, rather than resources, he said.
York County EMS providers are eligible to apply for grants through the fund, said Jane Conover, chief operating officer for the foundation.
The grant money will provide financial support that allows EMS providers to come together and give structure to the system in York County, she said. Some regionalization expenses covered under the grants include legal services, equipment replacement, technology and rebranding programs.
There is no maximum grant size at this point, and the foundation hopes to give a grant by the end of the year, Conover said.
She anticipates it will give out the full amount of the fund over the next few years.
Coming together: Ambulance companies are on a limited budget, so it helps to collaborate and share resources, said Rod Drawbaugh, chairman of West York Ambulance's board of directors. The company works with York Regional EMS.
He said he's openly invited other companies to join in on the effort because, in the end, it's all about giving patients the right care in an efficient, timely way.
"We hope that we can make this regionalization approach really work," Drawbaugh said.
York Regional EMS changed its name last fall from Yoe Ambulance Service, said EMS Chief Ted Hake.
"We've been York Regional in spirit all along," he said.
About 30 individual EMS companies serve York County, but not many partnerships have formed in the past year, Hake said. Delta and Fawn Grove's fire departments are an example of a regionalization success, and other companies are in discussions about working together, he said.
Now, having the opportunity for funding "eliminates significant hurdles" and will help companies pay for the costs of consolidation, Hake said.
"This is an unprecedented opportunity. This is a new era," he said.
— Reach Mollie Durkin at email@example.com.