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Countywide Advanced Life Support Services In Jeopardy

March 3rd, 2019

Four months after the Potter County Commissioners launched a $4 million upgrade of the countywide 911 emergency communications system, representatives of one of the organizations that provides life-saving medical services sounded an alarm of their own. Bob Cross and Michele Mather from the Coudersport Volunteer Ambulance Assn., provider of advanced life support (ALS) for all of Potter County, attended the commissioners’ Feb. 28 meeting in an effort to draw public attention to their plight. Citing a projected $50,000 deficit for the current year and the need for greater support from township and borough governments, Cross and Mather pointed out that ALS service is now in jeopardy. Rising costs for equipment, personnel, training, and overhead have plagued the organization for some time. The solution, they said, is a combination of greater support from local governments and changes in state regulations and policies.

Many people are unaware of the distinction between ALS and basic life support (BLS) services. ALS is rendered by highly trained paramedics who deliver medical care at the scene of emergencies and during transportation to hospitals. In a rural area, the availability of ALS is a life-or-death issue. Ambulance associations operated by volunteer departments throughout the county long ago stepped up to the challenge of providing BLS for every township and borough in Potter County, with support from emergency medical technicians and other volunteers. With the advent of ALS, Charles Cole Memorial Hospital created a paramedic service to complement the basic services provided by the ambulance associations. Hospital administrators eliminated the ALS division due to economics and Coudersport Volunteer Ambulance Assn. agreed to fill the gap as a hub for the countywide service. That was based on the premise that financial support from each township and borough, combined with state reimbursement for advanced life support services rendered to low-income patients, would cover the basic costs.

(Above, Bob Cross and Michele Mather describe the plight of ALS services in Potter County to Potter Leader-Enterprise reporter Halie Kines.)

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