Open fo­rum on Fleet­wood EMS changes

The Kutztown Area Patriot - - FRONT PAGE - By Laura E. Quain

Fleet­wood Grange Hall was nearly full of res­i­dents con­cerned with Fleet­wood Fire Com­pany’s EMS di­vi­sion be­ing turned over to Penn State Her­shey Life Lion EMS.

Fleet­wood Fire Com­pany EMS held a town hall meet­ing Feb. 9 as an open fo­rum for res­i­dents to ask ques­tions on what this change in agency will mean to the qual­ity of the ser­vices pro­vided to them.

Fleet­wood EMS Su­per­vi­sor Jesse Zerbe ini­ti­ated the meet­ing with a short Pow­erPoint pre­sen­ta­tion, ex­plain­ing the in­tent of the tran­si­tion from Fleet­wood Fire Com­pany man­ag­ing EMS ser­vices to Penn State Her­shey Life Lion EMS, which is af­fil­i­ated with St. Joseph Med­i­cal Cen­ter.

“We started to en­gage in dif­fer­ent dis­cus­sions and re­search mod­els that could meet the needs that we saw the com­mu­nity had, more than we were able to pro­vide. As we looked at those needs and mod­els, we be­gan to deepen dis­cus­sions with Penn State Life Lion EMS,” said

Zerbe. “Our vi­sion of what we want to of­fer and their vi­sions are pretty sim­i­lar, not only pro­vid­ing am­bu­lance ser­vice but also ad­di­tional ser­vices that can now be made avail­able. Not only be­ing an am­bu­lance ser­vice, but also be­ing more com­mu­nity in­volved, and get­ting peo­ple health­ier and more ac­cess to health­care in their homes.”

Zerbe’s pre­sen­ta­tion ad­dressed fre­quently asked ques­tions. He ex­plained that the tran­si­tion will not change how res­i­dents will call for an am­bu­lance. In fact, am­bu­lances will re­main sta­tioned in Fleet­wood, where they re­side to­day.

The train­ing re­quire­ments for Penn State Life Lion EMS are sim­i­lar to what was re­quired of Fleet­wood EMS but Penn State Life Lion has ac­cess to more ad­vanced sim­u­la­tions and tech­nolo­gies, al­low­ing for an in­crease in qual­ity of care. In ad­di­tion, mul­ti­ple doc­tors train Penn State Life Lion EMS paramedics.

“As a small non-profit com­mu­nity agency, it’s hard for us to of­fer the train­ing that we want to do to in­crease the knowl­edge for our paramedics and we do our best, we try to hold ad­vanced classes but try­ing to make sure that ev­ery­body can get there and hold­ing it mul­ti­ple times is very dif­fi­cult,” said Zerbe. “One of the things with Life Lion EMS that we’ve seen is that there is a lot more ini­tia­tive to in­crease train­ing and in­crease knowl­edge.”

Un­for­tu­nately, the man­age­ment change does not in­clude an am­bu­lance mem­ber­ship, which means that Fleet­wood res­i­dents will no longer re­ceive a 50 per­cent write-off on am­bu­lance ex­penses. Zerbe ex­plained that re­gard­less of the tran­si­tion to Penn State Her­shey Life Lion EMS, Fleet­wood Am­bu­lance would no longer be able to of­fer that mem­ber­ship ben­e­fit due to ris­ing costs.

Though, as a cour­tesy to mem­bers, Fleet­wood EMS has ex­tended their mem­ber­ship un­til the tran­si­tion takes place, which is aimed at mid-April, with­out charge.

How­ever, Fleet­wood EMS served as an out-of-net­work ser­vice provider. A ben­e­fit to Penn State Her­shey Life Lion is that they are an in­net­work ser­vice provider, as they ex­ist un­der the hospi­tal sys­tem. The ser­vice has rene­go­ti­ated rates that cover the en­tire hospi­tal sys­tem, in­clud­ing am­bu­lance ser­vice, which Fleet­wood EMS was un­able to ne­go­ti­ate.

The new ser­vices will ac­cept most, if not all, in­surance agen­cies, in­clud­ing Medi­care and Med­i­caid. Billing pro­cesses will re­main the same.

Zerbe ad­dressed that the EMS ser­vice will hold a le­gal obli­ga­tion to trans­port a pa­tient to the clos­est hospi­tal that is able to han­dle their med­i­cal emer­gency, in the event that the pa­tient is un­able to make a de­ci­sion. Though, if a pa­tient is con­scious and re­quests to be taken to a hospi­tal lo­cated fur­ther away, the EMS will do their best to re­spect that re­quest. Th­ese con­di­tions are the same that Fleet­wood EMS cur­rently op­er­ates un­der.

Also in at­ten­dance was Scott Buchle, pro­gram man­ager for Life Lion EMS.

“What we’re of­fer­ing here is ba­si­cally a seam­less tran­si­tion if all goes well. It is the same ser­vice that you have now with Fleet­wood so if you call 9-1-1, we will pro­vide ser­vices the same way,” said Buchle. “If any­thing, we are look­ing to build more re­sources into the sys­tem. What we are look­ing to of­fer sub­se­quently down the road since we are a hos­pi­tal­based ser­vice, we have what is called a Com­mu­nity Paramedicine Pro­gram that we would like to bring down, though we have no time line on this yet.”

The pro­gram will fo­cus on pa­tient af­ter­care. The ser­vice will send specially trained paramedics to fol­low up with pa­tients in their homes and as­sist with dis­charge in­struc­tions and tran­si­tion of care from hospi­tal to home. The pro­gram is cur­rently free, be­cause it aims to pre­vent read­mis­sion to hos­pi­tals, which helps fa­cil­i­ties avoid read­mis­sion penal­ties.

In ad­di­tion, Penn State Her­shey of­fers fi­nan­cial plan­ning and ways of ad­just­ing the bill if pa­tients sim­ple can­not make ends meet. At times the EMS ser­vice will con­sider am­bu­lance rides to be “char­ity care” and may not charge pa­tients.

Buchle ex­plained that the cur­rent com­mu­nity in­volve­ment of Fleet­wood EMS, such as car­ni­vals and at­ten­dance at foot­ball games, would be con­tin­ued and even en­hanced. St. Joseph’s Med­i­cal Cen­ter has a ‘Health One Unit,’ a con­verted RV which now serves as a mo­bile clinic can pro­vide the com­mu­nity with ser­vices such as flu shots and well­ness checks.

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