Future of EMS still unknown

The difficult problem of assuring ambulance services continues to be available in the county is still being pushed down the road without any progress on finding a new engine.

Dennis Morlan, who has operated Greene County Emergency Medical Services for decades, was on the county supervisors’ agenda Monday to provide updates on emergency management, Region V HAZMAT, and the medical examiner’s budget. Morlan fills all those roles independently of running Greene County EMS.

Morlan late last spring announced his intention to retire from the ambulance service. He explained the challenges of running the business, particularly recruiting and retaining employees. He is not in a financial position to offer wages and benefits to be competitive in the job market.

The supervisors were discussing options when Morlan decided he could work for another year. However, given the extra time, no more planning has been done. On the current course, it’s possible the county could be without EMS.

The county is not obliged by the state code to provide EMS. Greene County Medical Center indicated earlier it was not interested in taking on EMS. Given the financial problems, finding someone else to contract with the county like Morlan, is difficult.

Board chair John Muir brought up EMS after Morlan’s updates Monday, asking if he and supervisor Pete Bardole could meet with him to talk abut EMS.

Morlan names privatization of Medicaid as a large part of the problem. “As a result of the Medicaid mess, it’s turned to disaster,” he said. “The EMS business is a disaster because of funding. Some how it’s going to have to be addressed because the people of this county demand, want, EMS service.”

Morlan said he doesn’t blame the supervisors for being caught short on finding a solution, saying he didn’t give enough notice of his need to retire. He said he didn’t realize the toll a battle with cancer would take on his body. However, he will turn 75 in November.

Supervisor Dawn Rudolph said the board agrees that EMS is important in the county and that “we need to make it work.” Last spring the supervisors balked at the idea of having a county-operated ambulance service because it would add the cost of benefits for those employees to the county budget.

In other business, the supervisors set a public hearing on the sale of a small parcel of county-owned land in Scranton to Landus Cooperative. The hearing will be held next Monday at 9 am.

The supervisors also met with insurance broker Sandy Scheuermann to talk about a change in the structure of the county’s health benefit. The county now offers three different plans with varying deductibles and maximum out-of-pocket expense. The county is considering offering only two options, one of which would include a health savings account.

The board’s insurance committee planned to continue the meeting with Scheuermann after the full board adjourned. Scheuermann said after that meeting she’d get costs for the county of the committee’s two preferred options.

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