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Council weighs starting own life support service

July 10, 2002|by STACEY DANZUSO

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The Chambersburg Borough Council weighed whether it was feasible to establish its own advanced life support service for critical patient care Tuesday, uncertain whether neighboring townships would get behind the venture.

Discussions on the subject first began three years ago, and while the borough considers signing a new contract with the current ALS provider - West Shore - at least one council member is pushing for the borough to begin its own service.

"There were five major incidents last year," with West Shore's service, Councilwoman Sharon Bigler said. "Nothing was done. We have no control."

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Assistant Borough Manager David Finch, however, recommended the borough continue contract negotiations with West Shore, citing the company's willingness to work on problems as demonstrated by removal of two paramedics last year.

Consultant J.R. Henry determined if the surrounding townships, which share a joint service agreement along with the borough for West Shore's service, were to support a borough-operated ALS service, it would cost only an additional $10,000 a year. This would add six new paramedics to the Chambersburg Fire Department, he said.

At least Greene and Hamilton townships are opposed to this, Finch said. Letterkenny, Guilford and St. Thomas townships haven't taken a clear stance, he said.

Without the support of all the townships, the cost would be more than $100,000 and would not be fiscally responsible, Henry said.

Finch said his recommendation Tuesday was to continue working with West Shore on a new contract to begin Jan. 1, "considering the cost of service, and the strong indications from some townships they would not join."

If the borough pulls out of the existing arrangement with the township, that "would put strain on some important relationships with townships," Finch said.

Bigler said that shouldn't factor in.

"Don't sit here and tell me you're looking out for the best interest of the people of this town," she said to the rest of the council. "Don't put politics in front of patient care and safety."

Finch said there were several positives for starting the borough's own ALS service, including more control, the possibility that West Shore could pull out at any time, leaving the borough stranded without advanced life support service, and that the additional manpower could help out on fire and basic life support calls the borough also handles.

The borough is currently unable to respond to about 10 percent of its basic life support calls because of lack of manpower, Bigler said. The additional help that would result from establishing a borough ALS service could remedy that, she said.

Council members were still debating the issue late Tuesday and had not made a decision.

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