Emergency services could be cut for Upper Bucks County
Emergency service in Upper Bucks could be on the chopping block if they do not receive yearly monetary support from the townships it services.
The usual amount of foundation grants received by the Upper Bucks Regional Emergency Services, $200,000 worth of their budget, has been cut due to the "economic downturn and streaming of finances," stated Adam Maziuk, Executive Director/Chief at Upper Bucks Regional EMS.
Maziuk explained that Upper Bucks was alerted in February, by the foundations, that the EMS team would no longer be receiving support. Now, without the necessary funding to their budget, emergency medical services within the county are at risk.
Upper Bucks said it already eliminated unnecessary positions and streamlined their budget to a bare minimum. "If we cut anymore, it's going to be services and/or employees," stated Maziuk.
The payroll for employees makes up 72% of the total EMS budget but is essential in keeping medical services in operation. Upper Bucks has 34 employees on payroll; 22 of whom are full-time.
"Payroll is what kills us. It's the biggest part of our budget, but unfortunately we don't have any choice. We can't cut that," Maziuk stated is the sole employee of administration.
James Nilsen, Director of the Upper Bucks Regional EMS, explained that they should have only used the grant money to purchase equipment and not for operational costs.
Upper Bucks EMS is careful with their budget, making it a strict point to maintain a tight budget, which includes a savings. Nilsen stated their EMS have made it a priority to save $6,000 per year for radio upgrades.
But, with having $17,000 in expenditures monthly, Upper Bucks Regional emergency service team is at high risk of having to close. The EMS have applied for the foundation grants but with the cut already being made, it is unlikely they will receive the funding for the next fiscal year.
In asking assistance, Maziuk is going to each of the municipalities in Upper Bucks and asking for one millage in support per year to allow the EMS to continue services. Maziuk and Nilsen presented their plea to Springfield Township during the Supervisors' meeting on Tuesday night.
Although EMS are not eligible for as many grants as fire services, Upper Bucks has been continuing to apply for as many grants as they can in hopes of receiving more funding.
Maziuk stated his team has focused to "maintain a tight budget, trim.. and not spending" over their core needs. Upper Bucks has three ambulance trucks in their possession, two are operational and one is used as a reserve. Two trucks are in constant service in the county, staffed 24/7 by two employees: an EMT and a paramedic. "These ambulances are constantly covering each other," Maziuk stated, "It typically takes us an hour to turn over a run."
"We'll do 1,100 call per year, and bill out maybe 800 trips per year, well the standard is 1,500 billable calls per ambulance. That's two runs and blue to be self-sufficient, and for every time the unemployment rate 1%, you need 10% more calls to cover for that," stated the executive director.
EMS, an extremely low paying service, has 4 people on duty 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Upper Bucks covers 35,000 hours of staffing per year.
"So if we don't help you, services will definitely get cut and there will be longer response times," asked Supervisor Rob Zisko.
"We can't do it with volunteers," said Maziuk, "They don't want to keep up with the training and certifications if they aren't getting paid."
Even if Springfield Township agrees to a yearly assist for medical services, Upper Bucks Regional Emergency Services will need every municipality to pitch in, or else they will not be sustainable.
"We're going to take this up when we have our budget discussions," said Chairperson Barbara Lindtner.
Maziuk stated he is "hopeful, [because] we have the backing of the community."
Springfield Township is the first municipally Upper Bucks Regional EMS has officially begun the discussion and spoken to in a formal manner. Other municipalities are scheduled to have meetings with Maziuk, and are aware and informed of the situation.
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