Pennsylvania EMS Chief Responds to Residents’ Concerns

Response times for emergency medical services were discussed with supervisors in Strasburg Township on Feb. 4.

Service in the township was explained by Robert May, executive director of Lancaster EMS.

He also said Strasburg Township has 24/7 advanced life support, and there are no plans to change that coverage.

May discussed one case in which the agency was crititized by a unnamed resident who said it took more than 20 minutes for an ambulance to reach her home after her husband had a stroke, and then she arrived at the hospital before the ambulance.

May said that he would like to speak with the couple, either in private or in public, because they are owed an explanation.

“You deserve an answer, and I will get you one,” May said.

He said that he believed he knew which call was being discussed, and admitted that it was the agency’s fault.

“My leadership style is transparent,” May said. “If we make a mistake, I’m going to admit it and then fix it.”

May said that the senior dispatcher on that call decided not to use the GPS because she believed she knew the address, but made a mistake and ended up at the wrong location. The ambulance also apparently made a wrong turn on the way to the hospital.

May said that LEMSA has addressed the issue and changed some of its internal policies to ensure that the same mistake will not happen again.

He did contend, however, that the delay in response time was exaggerated, saying that the delay was only about eight minutes.

“I know when you’re waiting for an ambulance, nine minutes can feel like 40 minutes,” he said. “I understand.”

LEMSA handles 34,000 dispatches a year, and May said that the agency has only received seven complaints.

“We get positive phone calls every week,” he added. “We’re proud of the service we provide, but we aren’t perfect. We have had seven complaints, and each one deserves 100 percent of our attention.”

He thanked the supervisors for bringing the issue to his attention, saying that he appreciates that they care and are willing to ask the hard questions, because they should.

The supervisors also raised the concern local residents had over whether there is always an ambulance housed in Strasburg.

May said the only time Strasburg Township does not have 24/7 service is when the ambulance is responding to an earlier call or providing mutual aid to a neighboring township.

He said that by law, when the 911 center dispatches an ambulance, the agency cannot refuse. Of course, Strasburg also receives additional coverage from neighboring townships as well.

May also emphasized that Strasburg Township has better coverage than ever before. When the Strasburg station merged with LEMSA in 2002, the unit housed there was upgraded from basic service to advanced life support service.

Both May and the supervisors expressed interest in setting up a meeting during which May could sit down with the couple involved in the incident and give them the explanation that he felt they deserved.
 

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