York County officials are monitoring as local ambulance companies respond to WellSpan Health's plan to discontinue Advanced Life Support services, but commissioners said the county isn't responsible for overseeing the process.
WellSpan currently provides ALS services and leases medics and EMTs to ambulance companies across the county. But WellSpan announced earlier this month that, within three or four months, the company will phase out of those roles.
The company said there are enough other ALS and basic life support providers to meet the county's needs, but it has pledged to work with ambulance providers to ensure a smooth transition.
But some community members have been concerned about a potential shortage of personnel with ALS qualifications. ALS responders have a higher level of training than Basic Life Support, and that allows them to perform more invasive procedures for people suffering from life-threatening situations, such as cardiac arrest.
President County Commissioner Steve Chronister said he had been among those who were concerned, but his fears were assuaged by WellSpan's insistence that there are enough ALS and BLS providers in York County.
"We'll keep an eye on it and make sure things are going smoothly, but I'm not sure what action (the community) would have us take," he said. "We can't say, 'You can't do this, WellSpan.'"
Concerned resident: Chronister said he hasn't fielded any comments from residents, except for one man who turned out to speak at Wednesday's commissioners meeting.
Retired truck driver Charles Swartzbaugh of Conewago Township used
a public comment period to ask commissioners to look into the issue.
He said the loss of the paramedic service is jeopardizing the safety of both residents and those who drive through York County.
"It sets the county back 40 years," he said.
But while York County has a couple of departments with names that suggest they should get involved, county commissioners said the transition isn't the county's issue.
York County's Department of Emergency Services manages York County 911 and the Office of Emergency Management.
The Office of Emergency Management's role is to plan and protect the county from threats such as natural disasters and acts of terrorism.
And while York County 911 handles radio communications and dispatchers, the municipalities are those responsible for making sure an ambulance and the necessary staff are there to respond, said commissioner Chris Reilly.
"If a dispatcher requires an emergency response, the municipality has to respond to it," he said. "The county's involvement is ancillary."
A scramble: Reilly said commissioners met with Eric Bistline, director of York County Emergency Services, on Wednesday after the meeting.
"He assured us it's not a county issue," Reilly said. "This needs to be worked out between the municipalities and the private and public EMS services. But if there is a role for the county to play and if someone approaches us with a way we could assist, we certainly will consider it."
Essentially, the remaining ambulance services are going to have to find a way to compensate for the lack of WellSpan service, he said.
WellSpan currently leases paramedics to Jacobus Lions Ambulance Club, West York Ambulance and Grantley Fire and EMS. Spring Grove Area Ambulance leases emergency medical technicians from WellSpan.
Vice president commissioner Doug Hoke said he also plans to monitor the progress as private service providers and other entities deal with the hole in services.
He said he asked Bistline to keep commissioners briefed on concerns from emergency responders as the transition advances.
"The quality of service concerns me, but it is a private business making a decision," Hoke said. "It's a concern to me if residents are worried about the quality of the service, and I would like to at least keep on eye on what's going on."
-- Staff writer Christ ina Kauffman can also be reached at ckauffma email@example.com.