Open forum on Fleetwood EMS changes
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.