Representatives from the Lansford Ambulance Association, Eastern PA EMS Council and Regional EMS & Critical Care attended a public meeting Wednesday, conducted by Lansford Borough Council, to discuss matters concerning the Lansford ambulance currently out of service.
Representatives from Eastern PA EMS Council, an organization contracted by the Pennsylvania Department of Health, said they had received an anonymous complaint indicating there were concerns with the Lansford ambulance service.
Following up on the complaint, the group inspected the ambulance corps on June 24 and found it was lacking necessary supplies, used out of date equipment and had uncertified members working for the association.
The ambulance was then placed out of service. It was noted that it will remain out of service until further notice.
Chief of the Lansford Ambulance Association, Tom Staruch, said he was unaware that some of the equipment being used by his unit's ambulance corps could become out of date, and said the employees that were found without proper certification have since enrolled in a class to become certified.
Staruch said he does not know when the ambulance will be operational again but said his service is working very hard to have the ambulance back on the street soon.
Staruch denied rumors that his group did not have the necessary funds to purchase supplies, but said there is a problem getting money from the people who owe it.
Staruch refused to comment further on financial matters.
President Rosemary Cannon asked Staruch if there were uncertified volunteers in his service, to which Staruch replied that the volunteers in question were younger people and he was unaware that he could not have uncertified volunteers completing the small tasks during an emergency response.
He said the younger volunteers were the next generation of emergency responders and mentioned his son, who Staruch said was capable of taking a person's blood pressure during an emergency.
Staruch argued that some tasks can't be done without an extra set of hands, and said all his volunteers received monthly training at the station.
Currently, Lehighton has assumed responsibility for emergency calls in the Lansford area. Joan Gestl, administrative coordinator of Lehighton ambulance service, was present at the meeting and said the service's station in Summit Hill allowed them to respond to Lansford emergency calls within minutes.
The Lehighton ambulance service has stations in Summit Hill, Jim Thorpe, Lehighton and Penn Forest. Gestl said the farthest an ambulance would have to travel would be from Jim Thorpe if the other units are already out on call.
As a solution to his service being temporarily out of service, Staruch requested that Regional EMS & Critical Care provide Lansford with primary basic life support (BLS) coverage for an agreement of 30 days or less, unless Lansford ambulance is operational before the end of the agreement.
Regional EMS & Critical Care would place an ambulance within the borough for 24/7 coverage. Regional EMS President Matt Feller joined Staruch at the meeting. Feller and Staruch explained to the council that any costs from the agreement would be absorbed by insurance and Feller presented the board with a proposal drafted by Staruch and himself.
Under the agreement, Lehighton Ambulance would continue to provide primary advanced life support (ALS) service to the borough and remain as the secondary care provider.
Staruch said current subscriptions would be honored for the remainder of the year and the entire year of 2014. Subscriptions purchased after the vehicle is operating again will be for the same period of time.
Council motioned to table the matter until solicitor Michael Greek was present to review the document. All voted in favor except council member Danielle Smith, who abstained from voting as Regional EMS is her employer.