Rescue Squad In Danger
“We are dying,” she said. “We need help.”
The closing has resulted in city residents having to be transported to out-of-town hospitals, tying up the squad’s ambulance and causing “stacking” of response to emergency calls, she said.
“We feel we are not providing appropriate service to patients,” Pernell said.
Although conditions put on the closing by state Health Commissioner Heather Howard included provision of another ambulance, so far nothing has happened, Pernell said.
The city is also trying to get Muhlenberg’s parent company, Solaris Health Systems, to provide an ambulance, officials said Monday, but Corporation Counsel Dan Williamson said “Quite frankly, we haven’t got a lot of cooperation from Solaris lately.”
The squad answers about 6,000 calls a year, but Pernell said some of them are affected by the same problem that plagued Muhlenberg, people unable to pay for services. The squad has a flat rate of $650 per ambulance trip, but Medicare only pays $58 per patient, she said. Another issue is response to intoxicated individuals who can’t pay and who are rejected by some neighboring towns’ mutual aid agreements.
The city formerly provided gasoline for the squad’s ambulances as well as an annual donation, but stopped after the squad began billing patients. Currently the squad is half paid and half volunteer, Pernell said, suggesting the city could help out with fuel costs, grant-writing and a direct contribution ranging from $50,000 to $100,000.
Council members acknowledged hearing about the problems caused by Muhlenberg’s closing, but called for more documentation and statistics on the effect on patients in order to bolster the case for city or state assistance. Councilwoman Annie McWilliams noted it has been six months since Howard approved the closing and said she wants to know which conditions have been met and which have not been met.
The council will take up the questions at its next executive session, City Council President Rashid Burney said.