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Chester County Press

Medic 94 celebrate 40 years of saving lives

11/01/2023 11:28AM ● By Chris Barber

Southern Chester County EMS Medic 94 celebrated 40 years of saving lives at a picnic on Saturday afternoon. Scores of alumni from the service joined at Penn Township Park for reminiscing, reuniting and honoring the founders.

Medic 94 is the advanced life support system on wheels that responds to life threatening injuries and sudden illnesses in the 17 southwestern townships of the county.

Medic 94 CEO Bob Hotchkiss, who joined the organization in 1991 and became executive director in 1998, orchestrated the celebratory event and was master of ceremonies in the park’s pavilion. There was abundant refreshment and a food truck. The atmosphere was casual and upbeat.

Hotchkiss said proudly that of the original staff members who worked for Medic 94 at the beginning, all of them came to the picnic with the exception of Don Neff, who died in the intervening years.

Included in his accolades were honors for founder Larry Spaid, 40-year member Donnie Keith and Emergency Room Director Jim Goss.

Hotchkiss said Spaid deserves much of the credit for establishing a strong and effective organization.

Spaid, the former CEO of Southern Chester County Medical Center (the hospital), said that in the 1980s the idea of bringing an emergency room to patients on the scene saved time with treatment that would otherwise be spent just transferring them to the hospital in an ambulance.

Spaid said that the other hospitals in Chester County had established medic units at the time, but he wanted SCCMC to be especially effective and strong.

Having established business, professional and political links through his position at the hospital in the southern part of the county, he enlisted their help in the planning and support of Medic 94.

One effort that proved particularly effective in the initiative, he said, was enlisting the input of the fire company ambulances, local government officials and potential beneficiaries.

Spaid said it was important to him to form a service that had wide support. Getting input from the fire companies, whose ambulances picked up patients for transportation, would take them to the hospitals while the Medic 94 crews gave advanced first aid at the scene. Sometimes, in caring for a patient, the advanced life support medic would accompany the fire company ambulance to the hospital.

Hotchkiss said Spaid finessed municipal leadership for support, provided expansion of the hospital for the facility and assured that the staff he hired was highly trained and skilled.

Donnie Keith, an original member of the 20-member crew is still on the job. He was honored for putting in the full 40 years and maintaining the condition of the vehicles. He was presented with a small model of a Medic 94 ambulance.

Hotchkiss said Medic 94 had 1,000 calls in its first year, and has had 3,400 this year. The service continues to grow and thrive in spite of challenges.

He stays current in methods and materials and welcomes suggestions from his staff.

“If you have a good product, it sells itself,” he said.

When COVID-19 struck and increased precautions were necessary to prevent spread of the virus during medical contact, he and his crew were consistently coming up with new systems of protection, some of them even unusual and homespun.

Hotchkiss said many of his crew are in their 20s and 30s. “They’re a tech generation,” he said.

That has served him well, however, because the younger members are insistent on finding quick and effective solutions to challenges. That has moved Medic 94 into the future.

Currently he and his staff are exploring the innovation of being able to give blood transfusions on the scene.

Medic 94, which has always had its headquarters at the hospital in Penn Township, had to navigate the problems created when the hospital closed down. At first Hotchkiss and his board negotiated with the owners, Tower Health, to let them stay for 90 days, and then another 90 days. He knew that remaining in the empty facility was only a stop-gap measure, and he went ahead to plan for Medic 94 to have its own building.

Plans have been approved for a new Medic 94 building to be constructed on the lot at Baltimore Pike and Jenner’s Pond Road. Blueprints are underway, but the exact timeline for building has not been established. It will be soon, Hotchkiss said, and the public has been asking.

“What I need a a jacket with the writing on the back that says, ‘I can’t tell you when the new building will open,’” he said.

Medic 94 operates on a budget of $1.4 million a year. It has a board with representatives from all the municipalities in southern Chester County. It has a staff of 20.