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AMED faces key decisions

In asking AMED to consider adding all or part of their municipality to the ambulance service’s official full-time coverage area, the Reade Township supervisors have made it clear that they recognize the value of having a service of AMED’s caliber ready to respond to their residents’ needs.

However, in the weeks ahead, AMED leaders face the important, somewhat daunting task of determining whether taking on that additional full-time role might in any way be detrimental to the areas AMED already is committed to serving full time.

Spreading itself too thin wouldn’t be in AMED’s or anyone else’s best interests.

AMED leaders are well aware of that, having made the point that it takes about eight minutes for an AMED ambulance to reach a destination in Reade, which is in Cambria County. Presumably, that estimate is based on favorable weather conditions, not the kind this region experiences oftentimes, especially in January, February and March.

Nevertheless, there is nothing wrong with AMED officials assessing the full scope of possibilities without making any implied commitments at this early stage.

If expanding its official coverage area to Reade would not impact negatively its current service, AMED should not be reluctant to move forward with it; if there would be potential downsides in adding all or part of Reade to its “plate,” AMED would be better off continuing in its current capacity as it relates to the township.

The closest AMED ambulance to Reade is stationed in Bellwood.

As reported in Tuesday’s Mirror, AMED has answered hundreds of calls over the past year in the northern Cambria/southern Clearfield area, “which overall has become an EMS disaster” because the Reade Area Ambulance Association did not obtain a license renewal for 2020 and therefore no longer is responding to calls.

But, the situation for Reade was desperate even during the latter months that the association was operating, because the association was being staffed by just two individuals.

As Tuesday’s article noted, what was especially troublesome, while the association still was operating, were the times when the association couldn’t answer a call and eight minutes would elapse before the 911 center sought an alternative ambulance provider.

The trouble with that scenario

doesn’t need an explanation.

Based on discussion that presumably already has begun within AMED, the Altoona service, which offers advanced life-support services, is considering drafting an agreement that would need official approval by the Reade board of supervisors and the AMED board before it could become enforceable.

Gary Watters, AMED executive director, was speaking correctly when he said being officially responsible for providing service to the 38-square-mile, 1,700-person area in question would entail a much bigger commitment than simply a willingness to respond if and when an ambulance and crew were available. Under a formal agreement, the word “optional” would no longer be relevant.

For now, the biggest issue on which AMED discussion should center is not compromising ambulance coverage close to home.

Over the decades of its existence, AMED has built a great reputation and capacity to serve, but distance and terrain — coupled with weather conditions — pose limits on what it realistically can be expected to do.

It has been a godsend for Reade and, hopefully, it will be able to continue being a gift of life for that municipality, going forward, in a broader capacity.

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