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Northern Valley EMS under attack, again

Published March 07. 2011 05:00PM

Councilman Bryon Reed of Slatington is once again under attack by the unknown author(s) of the website for quoting a Borough Code that reads, 'The Borough shall be responsible for ensuring that the fire and emergency medical services are provided within the borough by the means and to the extent determined by the borough.'

The website author(s) took issue with the words, 'to the extent determined by the borough,' claiming, 'that seems to mean FREE for businesses while Slatington government raises taxes, water, sewer and trash rates for the citizens.'

The Northern Valley Emergency Medical Service (NOVA) is a non-profit organization and is the primary advance life-support provider of emergency medical-services for residents of North Whitehall Township, Washington Township, Slatington Borough, Walnutport Borough and parts of Lowhill Township, the same areas that are serviced by nine fire departments. Although NOVA's main facility is located in Ormrod, it does house one of its ambulances at the Slatington Fire Department.

In an interview with NOVA board member, Jason Breidinger, he said the Slatington Fire Department, with the permission of the Borough, invited NOVA to house an ambulance at its station and they accepted.

Since the Borough was already using their buildings with fixed expenses, regardless of whether or not the ambulance was housed inside, it seemed like a win-win situation for NOVA and the Borough.

Breidinger continued to say that although NOVA does not pay rent, since they signed the lease with the Slatington Fire Department, NOVA has updated the crew quarters, installed internet access, contributed emergency equipment and provided instruction for the Slatington fire department.

Breidinger stressed that although NOVA is part of the Slatington budget, there is no tax or mileage rate for the Ambulance Corps. All of the municipalities that are served appropriate money to support the service. Most of Nova's income, however, comes from billing for calls. The sum total of all four municipalities' contributions total approximately 4 percent of NOVA's receipts.

"As a result,' Breidinger said, "the Borough of Walnutport, the Borough of Slatington, Washington Township and North Whitehall Township all provide the Corps with some financial and in-kind support." Breidinger also stressed that NOVA is the primary advance life-support provider of emergency medical services for the residents of the area it serves.

NOVA is staffed by 38 paid full- and part-time Emergency Medical Technicians, Paramedics and pre-hospital Registered Nurses, as well as having 20 volunteers. NOVA's advanced life support crew responds to 911 calls on a 24 hour, 365-day per year basis from stations in Ormrod and Slatington. NOVA's annual operating budget is in excess of $1 million, without the support of the municipalities; these services could not be provided.

'If,' Breidinger said, 'a single municipality [had to] incur the cost of providing its own emergency medical services in order to comply with the State's requirements, the cost could reach hundreds of thousands of dollars annually.' Breidinger thinks the decision makers should be applauded for taking the necessary steps to far exceed the minimum required by the State of Pennsylvania at a fraction of the cost to their constituents.

Unlike many other corps in the State, NOVA is not currently experiencing financial hardship because of decisions made in 1998 to combine the Slatedale and North Whitehall Ambulance Corps and become the Northern Valley Emergency Medical Service. The new corporation, NOVA, was approved by the State in 1997 and joint operations commenced in 1998. In 1999, NOVA and Slatington's Community Ambulance Corps merged and was recognized by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The consolidations are the most important factor in permitting the Corps to continue to offer response services to the extent that they do.

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