Gallitzin to end EMS service

GALLITZIN – Citing ever-decreasing reimbursements from insurance and Medicare, borough officials announced Friday that Gallitzin Area Ambulance Services will be shuttering its doors come Monday.

“The staff and myself and the board of directors have given this a valiant effort,” said ambulance manager Bob Beers. “For a small town, only running 350 calls a year, that’s where the problem lies. The small-town ambulances are a thing of the past.”

Beers, his wife and two other emergency technicians are the only full-time paid employees. The service used mostly volunteer manpower, he said.

Beers said while everyone knew closure was coming, they thought they’d be able to last through the end of this year.

But some financial issues arose Tuesday morning, and after discussion with Borough Council members and employees, everyone knew “Monday was more than likely the end date,” he said.

Council President Roger Renninger said a workshop will be held at the beginning of next week with Gallitzin and Tunnelhill boroughs, the Southern Alleghenies EMS Council and Cresson-based Cambria Alliance EMS.

Renninger said the meeting will help all involved figure out what comes next and to “make sure all our residents are properly cared for,” he said.

Southern Alleghenies is contracted by the state health department to develop and improve emergency medical services systems within Pennsylvania’s south-central region.

“There will never be a service gap to anybody currently serviced by Gallitzin ambulance service,” Renninger added.

Gallitzin Area Ambulance Service formerly operated in conjunction with the borough’s fire department but broke off about 20 years ago to form a private entity, Beers said. He’s been managing the service for the past two years.

“We’re all from Blair County,” Beers said, including many of the volunteers. “We went to work for Gallitzin because they needed help two years ago. We did the best we could.”

Renninger said if the four employees want to keep their jobs, they’ll have to apply with Cambria Alliance, which Beers said everyone is doing.

“At this point, it is up in the air,” Renninger said of the jobs. “If they want to be part of the new organization, they’ll have to apply.”

Jim Effinger, the manager paramedic for Cambria Alliance, said the organization is fully prepared “to handle the medical needs of the Gallitzin area, with the cooperation of the Cambria County 911 Center.”

The rest of the details are being worked out, he said, and it’s unclear whether the organization would need to or be able to take on additional personnel.

“We’re assuming responsibility and that’s about it for right now,” he said.

Renninger and Beers both noted that volunteers and workers put in tremendous effort to keep the doors of Gallitzin Area Ambulance Service open, but couldn’t fit against the economy and mounting expenses.

Mirror Staff Writer Kelly Cernetich is at 946-7520.