Helping The Helpers: Policy Hearing About Supporting EMS In PA
Senate, House Democrats Host Roundtable Discussion on EMS Issues
PITTSBURGH, April 21 – State Senator Katie Muth (D- Berks/Chester/Montgomery), chair of the Senate Democratic Policy Committee joined Senator Lindsey Williams (D-Allegheny), state Rep. Ryan Bizzarro (D-Erie) and state Rep. Nick Pisciottano (D-Allegheny) to host a roundtable discussion yesterday on various issues facing Pennsylvania’s Emergency Medical Services (EMS) agencies.
The roundtable discussion, organized jointly by the Senate Democratic Policy Committee and the House Democratic Policy Committee, was held at the Community College of Allegheny County in Pittsburgh.
“Our EMS agencies play a critical role in our communities and knowing that they will always answer the call is in itself invaluable, but it doesn’t mean they should not be fully funded,” Muth said. “Our mission is to fight that fight in Harrisburg and to ensure that our EMS agencies have adequate funding, appropriate reimbursement rates, access to mental health services, and the tools they need to recruit and retain EMTs.”
The COVID-19 pandemic dramatically worsened a nationwide staffing shortage for emergency medical technicians and paramedics bringing longstanding issues — including low federal reimbursement rates and salary constraints — to the forefront of an industry already dealing with extremely high turnover.
“EMS companies across PA share the revenue and staffing challenges that we heard about today. These stories and those I’ve heard from EMS companies in Erie County are why I introduced the Community Paramedicine bill which enables EMS providers to do more and honors their service to those in need,” Bizzarro, chair of the House Democratic Policy Committee, said. “We need action in Harrisburg and our Caucus is prepared to help those who help us.”
The roundtable discussion featured local and regional leaders in the EMS field from Western Pennsylvania who discussed many of the challenges facing Pennsylvania’s EMS agencies which include state funding, reimbursement, recruitment, and retention.
“I’m grateful to my co-hosts and the EMT’s who testified during our roundtable. Our communities rely on the fact that a well-equipped and professionally staffed ambulance will be there when an emergency happens,” Williams said. “In order to make sure that assurance continues, we must work together to provide the funding and structural support our EMTs are telling us they need to continue to serve all of us.”
The SR 6 Report of 2018 illuminated the financial situation of the state’s EMS agencies and indicated its poor financial state is a key reason for the consistent decline in the number of agencies. The report showed that the number of Emergency Medical Technicians had fallen by over 6,000 since 2012, while the number of paramedics is down by 4,000 providers in the same time frame.
“There’s a bicameral and a bipartisan understanding that we need to do more for our EMS companies but we need to keep communicating these challenges so we can find the political will in Harrisburg to do more,” Pisciottano said. “Our EMS companies do so much for our communities and we need to honor that. Thank you to all those who serve our communities and those who came to testify today.
Participants in the roundtable included Greg Porter, Assistant Director, Ross/West View EMS; Eric Schmidt, Chief, Shaler Hampton Township EMS; Douglas Pascoe, Chief, South East Regional EMS; Bill Miller, Chief, McKeesport Area EMS Rescue; Jim Erb, EMS Supervisor, Citizens Hose Ambulance Service; and Todd Plunket, Chief, Baldwin EMS.
"Our EMS heroes have been on the front lines of the pandemic and given their best to continue to provide services despite the immense challenges of the last two years," state Rep. Austin Davis (D-Allegheny), chair of the Allegheny County Delegation, added. "However, EMS companies are struggling with burnout, staffing shortages, and having enough funds to stay in service. We should be doing everything we can to support them as much as they've supported our communities."
All submitted testimony from the policy hearing and the full video is available at SenatorMuth.com/Policy.