Atlantic Ambulance Corp. has established its presence in Palmyra Township-Pike, although has cut back operating hours to the daytime pending a new county dispatch system, said Mike Scovill of Atlantic.
Scovill reported to the Palmyra Township-Pike Supervisors, Jan. 21, that during 2013 Atlantic Ambulance answered 29 calls in the Township. Seventeen patients went to five different hospitals. There were 25 medical emergencies and four trauma cases.
He said they have served mainly as a backup, even after the New Jersey-based organization leased the George P. Irish commercial building off Route 6. They have been in this location since August 2013, just west of the Lake Wallenpaupack Visitor's Center.
Palmyra-Pike is already served by Tafton Fire Company's Ambulance department for basic life support (BLS) and Pike County Advanced Life Support (ALS).
••• Cut back hours
Atlantic has since restricted their hours to the daytime, he said, because the County decided Atlantic's base of operation was too close- under a half a mile- from Pike ALS' site in the Clemleddy Building just up the road, to make a difference of which should be called out.
Officials from Palmyra, Blooming Grove and Greene townships attended a meeting at the Pike County Communications Center last fall where they were asked to designate a primary company. Palmyra Township had already designated Tafton Ambulance for BLS transport.
Scovill said that the County wants the closest available unit to be able to respond to an emergency. Because Atlantic and Pike ALS' bases are so close, there was little difference on which was closer. The County of Pike has been discussing utilizing satellite tracking of emergency vehicles, as is done in Wayne County. Until then, the only way to determine who is closest is from the base station.
He said they did not anticipate to not be recognized by the County when they took the lease at the George P. Irish building.
Scovill said that Atlantic advocates utilizing the closest (vehicle) unit as well.
••• Would not be primary way
Contacted later, Bernie Swartwood, Director, Pike County Communications Center, said that they are researching a GPS tracking system but this would not become their primary method of dispatching. Instead, they expect local municipalities to designate primary BLS ambulance and ALS providers.
He said that the problem has occurred in recent years where there are multiple ALS providers competing, with one company stationing themselves near another. "There are only so many calls and so many dollars," Swartwood said. The Communications Center, he added, "won't be caught in the middle."
That happened in Milford where one provider was stationing close to another that was already established, he said, and the County called in five local municipalities to discuss this. Then the same thing occurred on Route 6 on Palmyra Township, triggering another meeting with township officials and the County.
Page 2 of 2 - A GPS system would be helpful, he said, if an ambulance or paramedic unit is out on the road and an emergency occurs not far away. If Pike County can tell that, at their discretion they could then summon that unit to detour to the emergency rather than call a unit at station several miles further away. "It's all about patient care," Swartwood said. They could also utilize GPS to verify that the unit is at station.
He said in other counties there has been a problem when GPS tracking was relied upon; one provider would intentionally park near another to try and get the call.
Before Pike County institutes GPS, Swartwood said, they need to ensure the mapping system used by GPS works with the maps used by the County that show all the private community roads and driveways. They are waiting on cost estimates.
Atlantic already has GPS devices in their vehicles. Scovill said because of that they have been dispatched to some calls over the border in Wayne County because they happened to be the closest available to the emergency.
"The closest unit, whether it be 10 feet or 10 miles, should go," Scovill said. "The challenge is keeping track of vehicle units when we're not at the base." He said they have a working agreement with Tafton Ambulance, serving as backup.
••• Blooming Grove decided
He said that Blooming Grove Township Supervisors has designated Atlantic as the primary ALS provider (and backup BLS provder) in the area covered by Hemlock Farms Ambulance. The exception in Blooming Grove Township is the Tanglewood North community which is closer for Tafton.
Palmyra -Pike has not designated a primary ALS provider.
Township Chairman Tom Simons told Scovill, however, he was glad Atlantic is staying in the area, as they are helping.