Palmyra Township (Wayne) supervisors, at least temporarily, voted June 4th to designate Commonwealth Health Emergency Medical Services to serve township residents in the Hawley area for both Basic Life Support (BLS) as well as Advanced Life Support (ALS).

HAWLEY -  Palmyra Township (Wayne) supervisors, at least temporarily, voted June 4th to designate Commonwealth Health Emergency Medical Services to serve township residents in the Hawley area for both Basic Life Support (BLS) as well as Advanced Life Support (ALS).

Secretary Lois Powderly stated that the designation would be “at least for a month.” The concern that they stated was over response time. One instance was cited, she said, where it was said it took “30 minutes” to complete a call.

Bryan Utegg, who is serving as Hawley Ambulance’s acting president, was not at the meeting but told The News Eagle that the issue that they have is over lack of volunteers. He said they have four or five dedicated crew members, but have difficulty assembling a crew without more people to respond. “Everyone is working,” he said, and not everyone lives nearby. Some of the drivers, he said, “come from 10 minutes away.”

The instance that took so long, he said, was a crash on Hudson Street. Utegg was away at the time. He said they had medical personnel on scene but there was a problem getting a driver quickly enough for the ambulance.

Hawley Ambulance provides BLS only.

Commonwealth, a paid company based in Scranton which has been stationing an ambulance in Hawley, provides both BLS and ALS.

Hawley Council’s action

Hawley Council also took action in January to designate Commonwealth Health as the primary EMS responder, pending an action plan from Hawley Ambulance to show how they respond properly to serve the public.

Council President Ann Monaghan told the newspaper, June 6, that Council would reconsider the designation if the local volunteer ambulance company submitted the requested information. She added that the problem with response time is still ongoing, with cases where Hawley was toned out (by the County Communications Center) but was unable to respond, causing a delay.

Utegg, who has been with Hawley Ambulance for around 30 years and was chief for several years, retired a while ago and only recently came back to help as acting president since there was a need. He said he dd not know why the action plan was not submitted, but they had almost all the information asked except for a complete roster. That part has been hard, he said, because of the need for volunteers.

“We feel blind-sided,” Utegg said. “We get to almost every call.”  He said the night the township was meeting, Hawley responded three times to calls. He said they are serving as mutual aid to other companies.

They also take calls to provide lifting assistance, or transport of patients to doctor appointments. Hawley Ambulance doesn’t charge for these calls, he said. Donations are welcome, which he added, doesn’t matter if its “$5 or $500.”

If they can’t get a crew together, he said they notify the Com-Center (9-1-1) right away. If Com-Center doesn’t hear from them, Com-Center dispatches another company.

Patients come first

Utegg stressed that what matters is that the patients are being served, and the patients who need an ambulance, need it immediately. He said he was not concerned if Commonwealth Health, White Mills or Tafton reached the patient first, as long as the patient is served.

“We don’t care what company gets there, as long as the patient gets care. We hope that company will be us,” Utegg stated. He said they need to help each other.

“We’re not dead in the water… or closing our doors. We’re fighting hard to keep a great service.”

Having their territory taken away, however, isn’t helping them, Utegg added. He said it makes it harder to encourage members to stay or to attract new volunteers if they lose their territory and there aren’t many calls to respond to.

He cited the advantage of having a local ambulance company that knows the area and the people.

One idea they are considering is to put a QRS vehicle into service. QRS stands for Quick Response Service. Although a QRS does not transport patients, they can arrive on scene with trained personnel to administer medical care while the transport ambulance is on its way.

Hawley bingo

Bingo was reorganized by Hawley Ambulance last year. They have bingo at the ambulance hall at 219 River Street every Thursday at 5 p.m. (first call at 6) and Sunday at 12 p.m. (first call at 1). Revenue from bingo games goes towards upkeep of the building.

Utegg said their members were upset when the borough installed “no parking signs” on one side of River Street soon after bingo was resumed.

More than funds, what they need most of all, however, is volunteers, Utegg stressed. They very much need drivers. EMTs, medical attendants and auxiliary members are also needed. He said that Hawley Ambulance will pay for the training. Much of the training is done in-house; they train Sunday evenings after bingo, starting at about 7 p.m., till 9 p.m.

Ambulance company meetings are held on the first Sunday of the month at 6 p.m.

Anyone interested in information about becoming a volunteer for Hawley Ambulance, Utegg said, may call him at 570-488-7514; email; visit their Facebook page or just stop in.