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Chambersburg considering starting advanced life support service

August 22, 2002|by STACEY DANZUSO

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The Chambersburg Borough Council president said Tuesday there is no reason that a borough that operates its own utilities can't also manage its own advanced life support ambulance service.

"If we can build and operate an ambulance service of the quality of our utilities, we will truly be the envy of every community in Pennsylvania," Bill McLaughlin said.

As the end of the borough's contract with West Shore ALS approaches, the council has more frequently discussed the possibility of establishing its own ALS service that would provide critical patient care. The borough already operates its own basic life support ambulance service.

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McLaughlin said he believes the borough could better handle quality-assurance problems and do a more efficient and professional job for the residents of Chambersburg.

Councilwoman Sharon Bigler has been a strong proponent of that, saying West Shore has had a number of "incidents" in the last three years that makes her believe borough residents would be better off with borough-run ALS service.

She said she was buoyed by McLaughlin's statements, which called for a final study on the issue and action.

"Over the past several years, this issue had been discussed frequently, but never to the point where we are willing to break away and pursue an independent course of action. I believe that now is the time to take that step," McLaughlin said.

"We have proved in the past what Chambersburg can do. Now we have to prove that we can take a life-or-death service and make it work better for our residents," he said.

Last month, Consultant J.R. Henry told council the borough could establish its own ALS service in six to 12 months at a cost of $10,000 if neighboring townships were on board and would use the service. At the time, it appeared some townships would not do so.

The borough currently has a cooperative agreement for ALS service with Greene, Hamilton, Letterkenny, Guilford and St. Thomas townships.

Without the support of all of the townships, the cost of establishing new ALS service could top $100,000, Henry said.

McLaughlin said he believed a new ALS system would be something for neighboring municipalities to share in, and would not be an attempt to build up power.

"We will build our integrated ambulance system not to establish local, parochial dominance, but because it is the best thing for the people of Chambersburg," he said.

Bigler said after Tuesday's meeting she feels finally the "ball is now moving along."

Henry plans to make another proposal at next week's council meeting outlining the process and costs of doing a final study of problems, solutions and costs to the borough for establishing its own service, McLaughlin said.

Although she would like to see the borough sever ties with West Shore as soon as possible, Bigler said the council also discussed signing a one-year contract with West Shore while pursuing support of the townships for locally-run ALS service.

McLaughlin said the borough must continue negotiations with West Shore to ensure ALS coverage in 2003, "regardless of what we do down the road."

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