Midstate EMS chief: ‘Who will rescue the rescuers, and when?’

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A call Tuesday for the General Assembly to step in to save EMS and fire companies across the commonwealth.

In a letter entitled “Who Will Rescue the Rescuers, and When?”, Susquehanna Township EMS Chief Matthew Baily responded to a Senate commission report from last week that said, among many other things, that EMS and fire workers are in crisis and “woefully” underfunded.

“You can’t keep on going spending more than you have and receiving less and expect the system to stay in place,” said Baily.

He praises the SR6 report but doesn’t believe anything will come of it, citing a similar report from 2004 (called SR60) that he feels fell by the wayside and didn’t lead to any substantial change.

In his article, Baily questions if EMS and fire professionals will be given more priority. He admits, however, that “many public safety professionals truly don’t expect substantial change.”

Baily says it’s simply a matter of more money going out than money coming in.

“We see costs increase and reimbursements remain the same, I mean it doesn’t take a genius to see at some point…there’s gonna be an end to all of this,” he said. “We can’t afford to go another 14 years without addressing these problems and providing substantive solutions.”

The battle he and many other emergency response workers face is all uphill – low insurance reimbursement, understaffed stations, unfunded mandates and sky-high equipment costs.

“As things improve and as we try to strive for more technology in the back of an ambulance, the costs go up but reimbursements stay the same,” Bailey said, sharing that on a $1200 emergency call, sometimes only 65 percent of it is covered by insurance. That means his department is out the costs.

But Baily is luckier than some – 4.5 percent of is provided by Susquehanna Township; some municipalities receive no taxpayer money at all.

While he applauds the work done in the SR6 report and believes it’s much more comprehensive than the 2004 attempt, he wants action from state lawmakers and for them to require insurance companies to pay a higher, more fair minimum reimbursement.

“I think we need to light a fire under our legislation, that we need substantive solutions…and we needed it 14 years ago!” he said. “You need to be reimbursed for at least what it costs you, and I think that’s all we’re really asking for. We just need enough to be able to cover our costs to continue performing our mission of rescue.”

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