Wayne Ambulance asks Borough for "closest available"

By Peter Becker

Managing Editor

HAWLEY - Hawley Council, at their April 10th meeting, turned down a suggestion by Wayne Ambulance to designate the "closest available" paramedic service for dispatch, in favor of their neighbor, Pike County ALS.

Craig Welsh, representing Wayne Ambulance, stressed the re-designation would be for Advanced Life Support (ALS) only and not for Basic Life Support (BLS) which is offered by Hawley Ambulance & Rescue Company. Wayne has a good relationship with Hawley Ambulance, he stated.

He said that Wayne Ambulance has stations in Lakeville, Hamlin and Texas #4 fire company in Honesdale, and they pass through the town of Hawley. "It comes down to patient care," he said, "[to have the] closest available ALS."

At the March meeting, Council approved reaffirming Pike County ALS as their primary designated paramedic service, which means Pike will be the first called to the scene in Hawley by the Wayne County Communications Center (Com Center), if Pike ALS is available. Pike ALS is stationed just outside the Borough, off Route 6 on the Pike County side of the bridge.

That action was taken after Councilman John Robertson spoke in defense of Pike ALS, due to a growing presence of a New Jersey-based EMS company, Atlantic Ambulance. He said it was not known if Atlantic was considering Hawley.

Welsh said that Wayne Ambulance was created about two years ago from their parent organization, Lackawanna Ambulance which is based in Scranton. They have seven ALS ambulances and about 50 employees in Wayne County. In September of last year, Wayne Ambulance replaced Honesdale EMS.

As an ambulance service, they also have the capability of transporting patients, unlike Pike County ALS in this area.

Welsh stated that their units have Automatic Vehicle Locators allowing Com Center to track where they are, and dispatch the closest available ambulance to a scene. He said that only Hawley and Waymart boroughs, and Canaan and South Canaan townships continue to designate a specific primary ALS provider, rather than designate the "closest available."

Brian Utegg, Chief of Hawley Ambulance & Rescue, said they have no problem with either Pike ALS or Wayne, both which provided paramedic assistance that day. Utegg said that Hawley Ambulance had five calls that day, adding, "two lives were saved in Hawley today."

Utegg said he didn't want to see "ambulance wars" in the area. Councilman Joseph Fauble expressed concern that if they designated "closest available," Wayne Ambulance "could park in Hawley and be the closest."

Susan Baldwin, president of Hawley Ambulance, said that no one was unhappy with Pike County ALS, and asked that the designation stay the same.

The request was turned down. Mary Sanders, Council Vice-president, was presiding, said they would keep the status the way it is, adding they have the "greatest respect"for Wayne Ambulance.

Later, Utegg explained to Council that Hawley Ambulance is concerned that they have already lost considerable primary coverage area. At one time they responded to over 1,000 calls a year and in 2012 they were down to 130. Hawley used to be the primary BLS company in Paupack Township and western Lackawaxen Township, but are now reduced to Hawley Borough and part of Palmyra-Wayne.

If Wayne Ambulance started providing transport from Hawley Village and Barker Street Apartments, Utegg said, Hawley Ambulance would be shut down.