Eight municipalities in the northwest region of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, have incorporated a first-of-its-kind regional municipal authority to address the region’s emergency medical services crisis.
The new Municipal Emergency Services Authority of Lancaster County will fund, manage and provide EMS services to member municipalities. The founding municipalities are Conoy Township, East Donegal Township, Elizabethtown Borough, Elizabeth Township, Marietta Borough, Mount Joy Township, Penn Township and West Donegal Township.
Emergency medical services in the northwestern portion of Lancaster County are provided by Northwest EMS, a non-profit organization that traces its roots to the merger of the Elizabethtown Fire Company Ambulance and the Northwest Advanced Life Support Unit in January 2000.
• Northwest EMS responds to an average of 25 calls per day
• Dispatches increased by 24% from 2016 to 2021
• Basic Life Support (BLS): stabilize patients for further care at hospitals
• Advanced Life Support (ALS): critical emergencies needing immediate intensive care
• Non-emergency BLS and ALS transportation services
Pennsylvania EMS Agency of the Year in 2020, awarded by the Pennsylvania Emergency Health Services Council and the Pennsylvania Department of Health
44% of the community are Northwest EMS subscribers; 56% of the community does not contribute to the organization.
Insurance reimbursement remains flat; the average gap between Northwest EMS gross billings and insurance payments is $4.3M a year.
Costs are rising for equipment, fuel, certifications, trainings, and wages and benefits that attract and retain EMTs and paramedics.
Northwest EMS’s funding sources are insufficient to cover its costs. The expected budget shortfall for 2022 is over $500,000.
The Municipal Emergency Services Authority of Lancaster County will fund, manage and provide EMS services to member municipalities in northwest Lancaster County.
The Authority Board consists of representatives from each of the Authority’s founding municipalities. The board is responsible for determining the authority’s services and fees.
As a regional municipal entity, the Authority will hold public hearings, enabling community members to have a voice regarding any changes to services or rates.
Instead of generating operating revenue through municipal and membership contributions, the Authority will set a reasonable and uniform annual fee to property owners.
Municipal leaders and the Northwest EMS Board of Directors have been meeting quarterly since 2018. At the start of 2021, a committee of Northwest EMS leaders, volunteers and local municipal leaders began studying this situation and exploring alternatives.
The committee is proposing the creation of a regional Emergency Services Authority, which will address the challenges that jeopardize emergency services in our community and fulfill the statutory requirement for municipalities to provide EMS services with more fiscal stability.
The bottom line: The new EMS authority would ensure that EMS services continue to be available in our community 24/7/365, potentially saving your life or the life of your loved one.
As a collaboration among multiple municipalities, the authority will provide emergency medical services and EMS administrative support to member and contracted municipalities throughout its service area.
The authority will advertise and hold public hearings on proposed services and rates. The community will continue to have a voice in the authority, even after the authority is formed.
The authority will charge a reasonable and uniform annual fee, on par with today’s Northwest EMS subscription rates, to property owners or the municipality (depending on the municipality’s arrangement with the authority). The fee would replace municipal contributions to Northwest EMS and membership subscriptions.
You would pay an annual fee on par with today’s Northwest EMS subscription rates (between $70-$85), or your municipality would pay the authority (depending on your municipality’s arrangement with the authority). Actual fees would be determined once the authority is incorporated.
Municipal residents would not receive residual bills if their insurance pays toward an ambulance bill. Residents would receive 50% off their ambulance bill if they have no insurance or if their entire ambulance bill went toward their insurance deductible.
State law requires that Pennsylvania municipalities ensure that EMS services are provided to their residents. If a municipality chooses not to participate with the new regional authority, it will have to find another way to fulfill its obligation to provide EMS services, including financing and operating such services.
September – December 2022
Municipalities consider enacting ordinances to incorporate the Emergency Services Authority.
Newly formed Authority begins to hold public meetings.
Public meeting held on the Authority’s services and fees.
Late 2023 / Early 2024
The Authority begins providing services.