Referendum would fund first county rescue services in Ellwood City | Local News

Since the closure of Ellwood City Hospital and its emergency department 2½ years ago, residents of the Ellwood City area no longer have access to a level of life-saving emergency care.

That missing level translates to wasted valuable time, according to Ellwood City Fire Chief Rick Myers.

The borough fire department, with the help of a three-year grant from the Ellwood City Hospital Foundation, is laying the groundwork to start its own Advanced Life Support (ALS) team, which, once certified, would be the first in Lawrence County. .

ALS certification would allow certified paramedics to immediately begin administering IVs, medications, intubations or other lifesaving measures within minutes of dialing 911, before an ambulance arrives, which could take 25 to 45 minutes, according to Myers.

In order to continue the ALS service after the first three years, borough officials hope borough residents will be willing to help fund the service in the future through a special levy.

The borough council, at its meeting last month, approved a resolution to hold a referendum on the Nov. 8 general election ballot to levy a million tax just to fund the ALS service. The question would be on the Lawrence and Beaver county ballots for voters in the Borough of Ellwood City only.

The polling question would ask whether the Ellwood City Borough Council should levy a million tax for the operation of an Advance Life Support (ALS).

“We’re not interested in starting an ambulance service,” Myers said of the fire department’s intent. “We don’t want to be in the ambulance business. We want to go on site (at the scene of an emergency) as first responders in the borough and save lives. We are trying to protect our people, since there are no more emergency rooms in town.

Currently, the fire department is certified as a basic life support service, which means the department’s paramedics can provide first aid and other basic measures that can be used in emergency situations. until the victims are referred to medical professionals. BLS techniques can be used when victims appear to be choking, drowning, unconscious, or suffering from cardiac arrest, for example.

An ALS certification will allow the department to employ paramedics to respond to emergencies and administer more advanced lifesaving measures until the ambulance arrives. If there is no paramedic on board an ambulance when it arrives, then the ward paramedic may board the ambulance with the patient to the hospital to continue care.

The nonprofit Ellwood City Hospital Foundation has agreed to donate $776,000 to start the service for the first three years. This money covers the cost of single-use equipment and medications and the salary of paramedics for 24/7 service.

“They graciously approved the grant and paid for each piece of equipment,” Myers said.

The fire department has four paramedics, but they are not ALS certified and cannot provide paramedic services, he said.

The department has 14 part-time paid firefighters and 18 volunteers, plus Myers as chief.

Myers said the groundwork has already been laid and equipment is being procured. He anticipates that the fire department will have their ALS certification, ideally by the end of September, to get the program up and running.

The borough council, borough superintendent David Allen, and the fire department, through negotiations with the foundation, agreed to try to find a source of funding to continue the service after the first three years. Hence the decision to ask voters for the tax of one thousandth.

“The foundation wanted a way to fund it when they were done funding it,” Myers explained. “That’s where the referendum comes in.”

Councilman Brad Ovial explained that the plant alone, if approved, would go strictly to ALS service and generate about $230,000. This money would be built each year to raise enough funds to continue the operation, he said.

Myers set up three town hall meetings to further explain the program and the need for the referendum to the citizens of the borough.

Meetings will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. on August 23 and September 26, and from noon to 2 p.m. on October 12 at the Ellwood City Fire Hall.

Typical ambulance response time in Ellwood City — for ambulances traveling from New Castle or Mercer or Beaver counties — is about 35 minutes, Myers explained.

If a person suffers a stroke, heart attack or serious injury, responding paramedics can only perform some basic care.

“That 35 minutes in between can save someone’s life with ALS service,” Ovial said.

Myers explained that an ambulance shortage and prolonged ambulance response times are not unique to Lawrence County. Ambulance companies do not receive reimbursements from the government, and there is also a shortage of paramedics because their training is almost that of a registered nurse and the nurses are paid more.

Once Ellwood City Hospital closed, the advanced level of care required in Ellwood City became more important, Myers said, “and the best thing to do is to put paramedics in the fire department, to get to the level higher faster”.

If the referendum doesn’t pass, the borough should try to find other ways to fund it, Ovial said. “I hope it will pass and people will understand and ask themselves the question: ‘What price do you put on a life? Are you going to bet that you and a loved one will never need this service? »

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Richard F. Gandhi