CENTRE COUNTY, PA (WTAJ) – The Upper Bald Eagle/ Halfmoon Council of Government held a special meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 24 to discuss funding options to keep the Port Matilda EMS up and running.
Port Matilda EMS posted to Facebook Monday, Nov. 21 that the choice to disband services was “not made easily and not without a lot of regret.” In the past months since they made the announcement the municipalities and community members have been trying to come up with ways to save the EMS service.
Elected officials from Port Matilda Borough, Taylor, Halfmoon, Huston and Worth townships met to discuss funding options for the EMS moving forward.
The EMS service says they face severe staffing shortages, which they blame on the pay of only 11 dollars an hour and the lack of volunteers
“We do an average of 525 calls on average a year,” Jack Bonsell, President of the Port Matilda EMS said. “And two people that are part-time. And that’s myself and another lady. We do have two part-time employees but they are in a transition right now whether they can work or not they have some other commitments that they’ve done so they’ve backed off a little bit for us.”
On top of staffing shortages, they’ve received only $44,000 in funding from all of the municipalities combined. Not to mention that insurance companies’ reimbursements are limited due to Medicare and Medicaid laws.
“I’m sure they wouldn’t like it if I paid my premiums and said you know this month I’m only going to pay half of the premium,” Bonsell said. “I’m sure that wouldn’t go over real well for them.”
The municipalities discussed the possibility of new tax dollars to fund the service or to contact their local state representatives to handle the insurance reimbursements.
Other options were also considered, like more fundraising, but it doesn’t seem reliable enough.
After some deliberation between council members and public comment, the group decided to hold another next month, hoping to solve the issue now that the municipalities have more specific information.
“There was a time when we could depend upon volunteers,” Keith Reese, President of the Bald Eagle/Halfmoon Council of Governments said. “I know because I was one of them. I’ve kept my EMT certification up for 35 years. It’s not easy as Jack said, you have to put your own time and effort into it and find time to get it done.”
The EMS service typically receives 1.3 calls a day and since the beginning of the new year, they’ve received 19 calls. However, they’ve only had the staffing to respond to seven.