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December 07, 2016
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Shohola ambulance decision postponed; Video of driver discussed

Kyle Wright, Pike County ALS director of operations, addresses the Shohola Township supervisors.
TRR photo by Kevin Kearney

Pike County Advanced Life Support (ALS) will remain the primary provider for Shohola Township—for now—despite concerns by some officials about its professionalism and sustainability. Township supervisors, after a lengthy discussion at their March 14 meeting during which they considered going with a different provider, tabled the matter for a second straight month.

The supervisors have been considering going with Atlantic Ambulance Corp. as the township’s primary ambulance provider. Atlantic, based in Morristown, NJ, has been operating in Pike County since 2011 and is a competitor of Pike ALS, which has been Shohola’s provider since 2001.

Shohola Volunteer Fire and Rescue is in favor of a switch. “We’re concerned about Pike ALS’s quality of care and professionalism and sustainability,” fire chief Clint Malzahn told the supervisors. “We take our jobs very seriously.”

Then Malzahn cited a video posted on YouTube ( showing a Pike ALS worker driving an ambulance at night with the sirens activated. The driver is laughing, pumping his fist and singing along to the song “Party Rock Anthem.”

“I saw that video and it’s very disturbing,” board of supervisors chairman George Fluhr said, speaking to Kyle Wright, director of operations for Pike ALS.

“I agree,” Wright admitted. He said the driver in the video—who was not identified—was suspended for two weeks.

Fluhr said, “It’s our job to protect the public and get the best service possible. I’m concerned it might not be an isolated incident. There seems to be some managerial problem that allowed this to happen.… I just don’t know how it could happen; that’s really bothersome.”

Wright assured the supervisors it was an isolated incident that was dealt with, and he wants to work with the board to resolve any other issues. “We’ve been here since 2001 and we want to stay here,” he said. “We will fix any problems.”

Wright noted that, like Atlantic, Pike ALS is registered as a continuing education program and with the Red Cross. “We do offer training all the time,” he said. He added that his company’s cost per patient is cheaper than that of Atlantic, though he did not mention specific numbers. He said Pike’s equipment is inspected every year and its paramedics are certified.

Township resident Carrie Thomas asked the supervisors if they had received any citizen complaints about Pike ALS. The supervisors acknowledged they have not. The complaints they had received had come from the fire company.

“Give these guys a chance,” Thomas urged supervisors.

Fluhr did express some concern about Atlantic, which covers 90% of the county. “I’m concerned about a corporation expanding too much and then having to cut back,” he said.

The supervisors discussed the possibility of having Pike and Atlantic as concurrent primary providers based on proximity. “It should be who is the closest to the emergency,” said vice chairman Gregory Hoeper.

But that would be more difficult than it sounds, due in part to complex mapping issues.

“It is a very complicated issue and we need additional information,” Fluhr said.

Despite the controversy, the supervisors voted unanimously to honor its yearly donation to the local, nonprofit emergency responder. At the start of the meeting, supervisor Keith Raser read a statement saying in part, “In my review of the relationship between Shohola Township and Pike ALS, there are several issues. However, no matter what actions transpire at this meeting tonight, I believe there is a moral obligation to honor a commitment by former supervisors that called for an annual donation of $10,000 over the past several years.… To honor what I feel is a moral, not legal, obligation, I will make a motion that the remaining $5,000 of an annual commitment.… be paid tonight to fulfill what I believe is our 2012 obligation to Pike ALS.”