Emergency medical services (EMS) provided by North Warren Volunteer Fire Department will cease in December with the a lack of available personnel cited as the main reason.
"We were lacking manpower," said North Warren VFD President Renny Flatt on Thursday. "We were unable to man our ambulance 24/7."
At one point, the department had only three emergency medical technicians (EMTs), two of whom worked during the day. Flatt indicated that an ambulance needs two EMTs on board to answer a call.
Flatt said the decision was also influenced by a concern for the community the VFD serves. A station has nine minutes to respond when tapped by Warren County Control for medical response, he explained. After nine minutes, a second tap goes out and the nine minute countdown begins again. For some emergency calls, every minute is crucial.
"We thought it was not a fair situation to put our people in," Flatt said. "We thought we were cheating the people of Conewango Township. You do what you have to do to serve the people we are serving."
While the decision was obvious in a logistical sense, it wasn't an easy decision for the department to make.
"It's actually a heartbreaking decision. We've been providing that service for 40-some years," Flatt indicated.
EmergyCare, Inc. will take over ambulance service in North Warren VFD's coverage area.
In a written notice from EmergyCare, the EMS provider noted that the EMS operations at North Warren VFD will stop as of midnight on Dec. 11. Under the EMS Act of Pennsylvania, North VFD is required to give the public and communities served 90 days notice of the decision cease ambulance operations.
According to Flatt, EmergyCare, Inc. will rent a portion of the North Warren Fire Hall, an area that will be staffed with EmergyCare personnel around the clock. Flatt expects EmergyCare to move into the building within a month.
Although it is a huge change for North Warren VFD, Flatt noted, "It is not a lost cause."
He said the department has the option of re-instituting ambulance service in the future when EmergyCare's lease of the fire hall ends, if more EMTs are available.
EmergyCare officials noted that previously North Warren VFD, Pleasant Township VFD and the City of Warren participated in a joint membership program. However, EmergyCare will not be participating in the program. EmergyCare will continue to honor the memberships of City of Warren and Pleasant VFD for emergencies.
Ambulance memberships purchased from North Warren VFD will be honored by EmergyCare Inc. through Dec. 31. Residents served by North Warren VFD ambulance services can purchase EmergyCare memberships for the new calendar year.