As of 8 a.m. Monday, Gallitzin Area Ambulance Services discontinued its services to the surrounding municipalities, folding under steadily decreasing insurance and Medicare reimbursements.
A workshop was held Monday evening at the Gallitzin Borough office along Convent Street, where representatives from the Cresson-based Cambria Alliance EMS, which has assumed the area’s ambulance services, Gallitzin Township and Tunnelhill Borough, along with Southern Alleghenies EMS Council Director Carl Moen, met to discuss “facts” surrounding the hand-off.
“It appears we’re going to have good coverage and the same level of services,” Moen said, citing response data gathered for Cambria Alliance EMS, formerly Cresson Ambulance Service.
The average response time for Gallitzin Borough calls was 10 minutes under the former outfit, 20 minutes for rural areas. Cambria Alliance maintains 24/7 coverage through stations located in Cresson, Lilly and Ashville. Managing paramedic James Effinger said since calls are received through Cambria County 911, there will be no preference for response.
Since the closure of SCI-Cresson, which Effinger said was responsible for an average 75 calls per year, manpower is right where it should be for the added service area.
Responders from Gallitzin Area Ambulance have also applied with Cambria Alliance EMS.
“That’s a valuable resource. We want to build on that,” Effinger said. “If we need extra crew, I can get it because our people live nearby.”
It’s still unclear whether Cambria Alliance EMS will be able to take advantage of the old Gallitzin Area garage or license its units – the borough does not own the garage or any equipment.
Membership rates, which will waive ambulance deductibles, will be $30 for individuals, $40 for families and $50 for households, which means anyone currently at the residence. Citing EMS membership law, alliance board members said although Gallitzin Area offered senior citizen discounts, that will not continue.
No other surcharges will be attached to Cambria Alliance EMS services.
“Regardless of pay, we’re still coming to your house,” Effinger said. “If you don’t have that membership, not only do you get the bill, you’re responsible for the whole thing.”
Effinger said memberships comprise about 99 percent of funding.
At the meeting, representatives from fundraising entities, including Friends of Gallitzin Area Ambulance, were urged by the Cambria Alliance board to continue their efforts, and work on expanding into areas like Cresson and Lilly.
With the addition of Gallitzin and Tunnelhill boroughs – nearly 1,000 households, according to Gallitzin Borough Council President Roger Renninger – Cambria Alliance EMS now services 15 municipalities in the area, more than any other ambulance service in the county. Effinger said the Cambria Alliance budget is now pushing $1 million.
“What we’re looking at is regionalization of the EMS services because of more in the pot,” Effinger said. “More finances can not only keep the system going but can expand it.”
Renninger said he felt the meeting went well.
“Everybody knows right now that change is inevitable,” he said. “Regionalization is truly, at this point, the only way these smaller communities are going to be able to survive.”
Justin Dennis is a multimedia reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/JustinDennis.