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Chester County Press

Kennett Square mayor opposes township's EMS proposal

12/16/2020 11:25AM ● By Richard Gaw

By Richard L. Gaw

Staff Writer

From the time Kennett Township first publicly floated the concept of using the Longwood Fire Company as its future one-source provider for EMS and ambulance service to its 12,000 residents this past October, Kennett Square Mayor Matt Fetick has remained true to his opinion of the proposal, as well as his narrative.

Quite simply, he thinks the proposal is a bad idea he said, one that if passed would begin to dramatically change how EMS and ambulance service will be disseminated in the area, eliminate EMS jobs, reduce hours of service and consequently cut vital life-saving services to a growing population.

“The township’s proposal doesn’t solve anything,” Fetick said. “It shifts dollars from one organization to another and reduces coverage. There’s no solution here. This is a multi-faceted problem.”

The township’s initiative to streamline its EMS and ambulance service stemmed from a 2016 study that called for the township to explore the possibility of moving to a one-source provider of EMS and ambulance services.

As it looks now, the current ambulance and EMS system for the township and Kennett Borough provides its residents with one 24/7 Advanced Life Support ambulance (ALS) from Longwood; one 24/7 Basic Life Support ambulance (BLS) from Kennett; and one Advanced Life Support ambulance (ALS) from Longwood that operates 16 hours a day. The study, created by experts that were hired by the Regional Fire and EMS Commission, introduced the potential advantages of a decision that would consolidate the twin services of unit-hour utilization transport (UHU) and mobile intensive care units (MICU) in the township, eliminate a duplication of services and lead to a reduction in the costs associated with providing EMS service to its residents.

On the negative side, the township would sever its contract with the Kennett Fire Company, which would likely lead to a reduction in the number of EMT staff at the facility, reduce overall EMS coverage by about 6,000 hours a year and increase the number of missed calls for service. Currently, close to five percent of calls to both EMS units in the township are routinely missed; by moving to a single provider, that percentage is projected to rise about two percent. 

‘It will cost us more to keep what we have’

In a Dec. 2 letter to the Kennett Square community, Fetick and Borough Council member Ethan Cramer – both of whom serve on the Regional Fire and EMS Commission – levied criticism on the township’s proposal, stating that “in the midst of a pandemic we don’t see the value in terminating three full-time and 12-part time EMTs in order to reallocate those funds to either a different provider or a different level of service.”

While the Kennett Borough Council remains adamant that whatever the township ultimately chooses to do will not impact the level of EMS and ambulance service borough residents currently receive, “it will cost us more to keep what we have,” Fetick said. “The borough will end up shouldering more of the cost in keeping the same level of service that we want. My concern is that we either have to go along with their plan and therefore reduce coverage in the borough, or stay with our current model, which will cost us more money because the township will be contributing less to the Fire and EMS Commission.”

For now, the township’s proposal remains on the table. At the conclusion of their Dec. 2 online meeting, the township’s Board of Supervisors voted 2-1 to delay entering the township into an exclusive service contract with Longwood beginning on Jan. 1, 2021. Board chairman Richard Leff and Whitney Hoffman voted in favor of extending all EMS services for the township to Longwood beginning on March 1, 2021, and in the interim allow both Longwood and Kennett to submit a collaborative proposal for proving ambulance service to the township by Jan. 20, 2021.

The board would then consider the proposal and reach a decision by Feb. 3, 2021, and if it does not accept the proposal, Longwood would receive the EMS contract. If the board does accept the new proposal, it would then consider a revised motion to authorize an EMS partnership between Longwood and Kennett next year. 

Consolidation of services for a rising population

If there is an elephant in the room for Fetick, it is the potential impact that a streamlined EMS and ambulance service will have on the continual and steady population growth of the entire community – one that includes both the borough and the township. The borough’s population stands at 6,243, a rate that is growing at a rate of 0.39 percent annually and has increased by 3.21 percent since the most recent census, which recorded a population of 6,049 in 2010.

“There is a growing trend for people to relocate to communities like ours, and continuing to be able to provide emergency services is a critical part of what the residents of Kennett Square care about,” he said. “I am in my third term as mayor, and I have learned that people want to be assured that their water comes out of the faucet when they go to the sink, that their sewer system is working, that their trash is picked up on time, and whether or not someone arrives at their home when they call 9-1-1.

“EMS and fire are among the most critical services that a local government provides for its residents. I want to look at how we grow these services responsibly to an increasing population, and not reduce services.”

Fetick said that his perspective on the issue of EMS and ambulance service comes from two places – his role as the mayor of Kennett Square and the 30 years he spent as a paramedic. He supports a long-term comprehensive solution that addresses the future of fire and EMS service in the Kennett Square community, from the standpoint of legislation, insurance and medicare reimbursement, hours of service, staffing and coverage zones.

It is a conversation, he said, that should begin with a presentation to the Kennett Square community.

“Before I would agree to any changes in the borough, I would want to hear a mandate from my neighbors to reduce the money we spend on emergency services, keep it at its current level, or increase these services,” Fetick said. “Before these decisions are made, I would want to ask my neighbors in a public forum to tell me what is most important to them.

“I believe that the delivery of emergency services is at a tipping point and requires a long-term comprehensive solution,” he added. “I don’t believe that reallocating funding from one provider to the next – that also reduces the number of available hours of emergency service – is the right solution. I do believe that we can get reasonable people in a room and start mapping out what the next ten years of this delivery will look like.”

To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email [email protected].