Favoring both Pike ALS and Atlantic Health

By Tim Sohn

News Eagle Correspondent

SHOHOLA TWP. - After a lengthy discussion over whether Shohola wants to continue using Pike County ALS or Atlantic Health for its ambulance service, it seems that the supervisors would like to choose both, allowing the communications center to deploy whichever ambulance is closest.

The board decided to table the issue until the next meeting to discuss logistics to see if this option is feasible because the Pike County Communications Center does not currently use GPS.

At the Board of Supervisorsí Feb. 14 meeting, George Fluhr Jr., chairman said that the Shohola Fire Department had raised concerns regarding Pike County Advanced Life Support. Clint Malzhan, chief of the fire department, said at that meeting that issues have been brewing for about a year regarding quality of staff and services.

-- Twp. 1st picked Pike ALS

Kyle Wright, Pike County ALS operations director, defended his service, saying that the township originally came to them in need of ambulance service. He also said the ALS has provided the best service over the past years, and this was the first he was hearing of any problems from the fire department.

The township has also held several special meetings regarding the ambulance issue.

Several Shohola Township Volunteer Fire & Rescue officers and members, including Clint Malzahn, chief, spoke out in support of the township switching to Atlantic Health.

Malzahn said qualities he is looking for in an ambulance provider are: quality of care, sustainability and professionalism.

"These are three standards that we at the fire department hold ourselves accountable to and we would expect anybody in the township to," he said.

--YouTube video

Malzahn pointed to a YouTube video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FDMsykWzGPQ) that allegedly shows a Pike County ALS employee driving an ambulance erratically while dancing in his seat with loud music playing. He recommended making Atlantic ALS the primary provider in Shohola Township, and Pike County ALS the secondary provider.

Other fire department members noted that Atlantic ALS already serves as backup ambulance provider, and it provides them with continuing education credits.

In addition, they noted that Pike County ALS is not sustainable, and who knows if it will merge with another company, which is being considered. They also brought up the issue of keeping equipment up to date, and whether the $10,000 that the township has been donating to Pike County ALS could go toward something else.

Wright said that Pike County ALS is not considering merging with Atlantic ALS; however, it is looking at the possibility of merging with one of five companies. He said Pike ALS was previously contacted by Atlantic about the possibility of merging, but that didnít come to be.

"We have a long history with Shohola Township, and I understand if the fire department feels thereís a need for a change. I just wish if there was an issue that we could have resolved that," he explained.

Wright added that he is willing to make any adjustments necessary at the ALS and that its equipment is inspected every three years and its paramedics are certified.

"There is a cost factor for the residents, and that $10,000 donation, that was the townshipís decision, that wasnít ours. I want to clear that up. That was not our decision," he said, adding that the cost per patient is cheaper than competitors in the area, and it has a compassionate billing policy. Atlantic ALS also has a compassionate billing policy. Wright also said that Pike ALS does offer training for local fire departments, ambulance and the community.

Switching hurts them

"Itís decisions by municipalities that decide to go with a different provider that jeopardizes our sustainability. Prior to the arrival of Atlantic Health Care System, we were doing OK. We were skating by. We were able to make it. Now, not so much. I can understand how sustainability would be in question," he explained.

Raser asked a representative from Atlantic Health present at the meeting if all of its vehicles have GPS units. He said that they do, and Wright explained that Pike ALS also uses GPS. Both Atlantic and Pike ALS have offered GPS to Pike County Communications Center; however, they said they are currently not using that technology.

"We are frustrated as well," said Wright, adding they offered GPS free of charge to the communications center.

Fluhr Jr. raised concerns over the future of Pike County ALS if it ends up merging with another company.

-- Swallow little fish

"My understanding of how corporations work is that they are always looking to swallow up little fish, and when they swallow up the little fish, they do one of two things: they dissolve little fish and then impose their big fish mentality upon them, or they allow you to operate under their rules, and you usually donít have too much of a say," he said.

Wright said the Pike County ALS board starting looking at merging options about one and a half years ago, and it was looking to do so quickly, but itís taking much longer because it wants to get the best deal for its employees and the public.

In addition, the supervisors approved a donation of $5,000 to Pike County ALS. According to Keith Raser, supervisor, the township made a donation commitment of $10,000 for 2012, of which the township has already paid $5,000.

"To honor what I feel is a moral but not legal obligation, I will make a motion to add a $5,000 check to the expenditures to pay Pike ALS the remaining balance of what we owe them for 2012, and that commitment was made prior to me sitting as supervisor of Shohola Township. This will fulfill our obligation for 2012 to Pike ALS. I want it understood that this action in no way implicates or commits the current Board of Supervisors to any funding in 2013 or any future years," explained Raser.

After the vote, the public applauded.

Editor: Other meeting items will be reported separately