A one-year agreement was inked to keep an ambulance stationed in Farmington.
Those who live in Ohiopyle, Markleysburg and Wharton, Henry Clay and Stewart townships ought to be breathing a sigh of relief — and thanking those in the community who stepped up and took action.
Earlier this year, Fayette EMS gave notice that funding woes meant they would need to shut down the station that serves Fayette County’s mountain community. While the service would still respond to the area, the closure of the Farmington station meant sending an ambulance from Hopwood.
In perfect conditions, that meant 20 minutes to respond to Farmington; 30 minutes to get to the Yough Lake area.
Fayette EMS officials asked for help, citing a $100,000 annual shortfall at the mountain-area station, and initially, community leaders balked.
And then, those leaders came together. They held a town hall meeting, they looked for alternatives and they realized how important it was to keep an ambulance service close for the welfare of their residents. They initially priced two other services, and found both came in at a higher rate. One, officials said, was double the cost.
Officials said that town hall meeting was eye-opening. Some elected officials and residents received an education about the struggles ambulance services face locally and nationally.
As Farmington Volunteer Fire Department Chief Brian VanSickle said last week, “It was an easy choice, Fayette EMS was worth saving.”
Keeping the station open was made possible by a substantial donation from the Hardy family, owners of Nemacolin Woodlands in the mountain area. Four other entities also made smaller donations.
Those donors deserve an immense amount of praise for reaching into their pockets.
But it is now time for those same community leaders who heard about national-level difficulties of ambulance services to begin preparing for the future.
The financial problems experienced by many emergency response services are not going to be magically resolved during the year-term of the agreement.
Fayette EMS officials have agreed to do their part. They agreed to segregate costs associated with keeping the Farmington station open and track the zip codes of donations that come in during the organization’s annual fund drive to get an accounting of what mountain-area residents contribute.
Rick Adobato, EMS chief for Fayette EMS, said state laws make it difficult for ambulance services to be reimbursed from Medicare, noting 70% of Fayette County residents are on Medicare or public assistance, and many are uninsured.
Without changes in those laws — and help from our state legislature — the problem will persist. Yet, as we’ve noted before, legislative wheels turn slowly.
Our local public officials need to begin looking at budgets now, and considering what funding they can allocate to help offset service costs so the same issue does not repeat one year from now.