File photo by Andy Close.

City Will Request Exemption to Requirement to Respond to EMS Calls Outside City Limits

May 17, 2021

WARREN, Pa. – Warren City Council unanimously passed a motion during its regular meeting Monday authorizing a letter to be sent to the state requesting that the City no longer be required to respond to EMS ambulance calls outside City limits.

City Manager Nancy Freenock emailed a letter to Supervisors in Brokenstraw, Conewango, Glade, Mead, Pine Grove, Pleasant and Sheffield Townships and Youngsville Borough, along with a copy of the letter to be sent to the state, on May 4 explaining the City’s position.

“There has been a significant and substantial increase in the number of incidences of the City of Warren Fire Department being called to locations outside of the city in response to EMS dispatches,” the letter said. “As a result, the taxpayers of the City of Warren are subsidizing a necessary public safety service which your municipality is statutorily obligated to provide. This places an unjust and unfair burden on the taxpayers of the City for which no reciprocal benefit is received.

“I believe you are aware that the City has consistently tried, albeit unsuccessfully, to work with neighboring municipalities to develop an equitable solution to the EMS crisis in Warren County,” the letter continued. “The City remains willing to engage in conversations that would result in sharing the burden of EMS response, we will not; however, do so at the expense of City taxpayers.”

The request, in a letter prepared by Page, Wolfberg & Wirth, will be sent to the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s Director of the Bureau of Emergency Medical Services, Dylan Ferguson, and asks that the Warren Fire Department be granted an exemption to 28 Pa. Code §1027.3(g)(4) Response to Dispatch by PSAP.

“Due to its limited 911 ambulance response capability, including the risk to public safety for City residents who pay for the availability of emergency ambulance service, the WFD is requesting an exception to this regulatory provision,” the request reads. “The exception requested is that the WFD not be required to respond to PSAP dispatches for emergency basic life support ambulance services to locations outside the City of Warren.”

Council engaged in a brief discussion, essentially confirming that City EMS crews are regularly being called outside City limits without being reimbursed, before casting the vote to authorize the request to be sent to the state.

“I’ve been thinking about this for months, and I feel that this is one of the most important actions Warren has probably ever considered,” Councilman John Wortman said. “But I also feel that at this point in the situation that we’re in, this may be one of those necessary actions.”

Councilman Phil Gilbert asked if this was the first time a city in Pennsylvania had made this type of request. City of Warren Fire Chief Rodney Wren confirmed it was.

Conewango Township sent a letter in response to Freenock’s email which was read prior to Council’s vote.

“We have discussed Ms. Freenock’s letter with all of our partner agencies, reviewed our facts, and we disagree that Conewango Township is contributing to your EMS issues,” the Township’s letter said. “Contrary to what Ms. Freenock states in her letter, this is the first time that any knowledge of this unsubsidized EMS issue has been brought to the attention of the Conewango Township Board of Supervisors.”

Wren disputed the claim that the EMS issue had not been brought to the Supervisors’ attention prior to the letter of May 4.

“I can verify since I’ve been here with just Glade and Pleasant in close proximity, which means that I keep a timeline of all the meetings I’m working on,” Wren said. “It’s almost 50. That’s not counting the EMS task force which ran for about six to eight months, and it was in the (media) constantly. It was made up of commissioners, all the local fire departments, hospitals, etc.”

Pleasant Township Supervisors heard a presentation from EmergyCare at their meeting May 11 outlining potential options if the City is granted an exemption.

Last year, Pleasant, which receives a large number of its calls from the Warren Manor, entered into a pilot program with the City of Warren, which ended in December.

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