The Chester County EMS Council, Inc., being the lead agency that serves as a uniformed voice of EMS in providing advice and recommendations to local and county governments, EMS agencies, consumers, and other emergency services entities to promote the maintenance and improvement of the EMS system and public safety in Chester County, PA has determined the need to compose a document that outlines the impacts of two hospital closures in Chester County, PA. Tower Health closed Jennersville Hospital as of 12/31/2021 and will be closing Brandywine Hospital effective 1/31/2022. It is anticipated that the remaining Chester County hospitals will absorb about 77% of the EMS volume from the hospitals that are closing. These closures will directly impact the entire EMS and healthcare system in Chester County in a multitude of ways ranging from staffing, finances, provider well-being, system overload, and decline in volunteerism. This document outlines these concerns along with highlighting potential solutions, needs for regulation changes, and alternative ideas to combat the challenges that face EMS.
Surveying the EMS agencies in Chester County revealed that most agencies currently have open and unfilled positions and will need to employ additional staff to meet the increased demands due to the hospital closures. This, coupled with increasing expenses and the lack of direct pay legislation will negatively impact the EMS agencies and require them to seek subsidies from the municipalities they serve. Additional impacts to both the fire and police agencies will be felt as they will have greater wait times for EMS to arrive at incidents, decreased availability of dual role firefighter/EMS personnel, and increased transport and wait times at hospitals for suspected DUI offenders during the collection of blood samples.
Chester County’s EMS agencies will be faced with unprecedented circumstances in the coming weeks and months. It is imperative that EMS agencies initiate and maintain open lines of communication with the municipalities they serve. The agencies should be prepared to share all types of information including: operational data, the challenges that they are facing, alternative ideas and methods of service delivery, and their financial records with full transparency. Candid conversations and data/financial transparency will allow for EMS agencies and their municipalities to work in tandem for the best interests of the communities they serve.