November 25, 2020
Dear Kennett Community,
I am writing to you in order to let you know about a recommendation that is to be considered by the Kennett Township Board of Supervisors next Wednesday, December 2nd. On Thursday, October 29th the Board and public was presented with this recommendation to move Kennett Township to a single ambulance provider for first due Emergency Medical Service (EMS) delivery. On October 29th, we chose to wait a month to gather more information before deciding how to proceed. I encourage you to review the presentation from that meeting (available HERE) and/or re-watch the discussion (available HERE). I and your entire Board of Supervisors want to provide you with information, an opportunity to provide comments and to influence the process.
Background: Kennett Township is currently served by two Fire Companies who also provide Emergency Medical Service (EMS), Kennett Fire Company and Longwood Fire Company.
There are two types of ambulance services provided: Advanced Life Support (ALS) and Basic Life Support (BLS). The fundamental difference between them is that ALS is considered to be a life-threatening emergency, whereas BLS is not. ALS is provided by a Paramedic who is required to undergo 1-2 years of training to be able to perform complex life-saving procedures and administer certain medications; whereas, BLS is provided by an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), who has received important, but much less, training and is not licensed to provide medication.
Current EMS Delivery: The current arrangement is that ALS is provided by Longwood Fire to the entirety of the Township, in part because Kennett Fire does not maintain an ALS unit. In contrast, BLS service is divided, with Kennett Fire responding in the Township west of Bayard Road and Longwood Fire east of Bayard Road. If there is an ALS call west of Bayard Road, Longwood Fire is the primary provider of the ALS response with Kennett Fire also responding, which results in dispatching two ambulances on one ALS call. This causes two fundamental problems. First, residents are receiving two bills from two different companies for one emergency. Secondly, this takes additional equipment out of service so for that time frame, one ambulance is unable to respond to any other emergency calls. It is this dynamic that the Board intends to address by considering a recommendation to move the Township to a single first due EMS provider for both ALS and BLS calls.
The Recommendation: The recommendation is for the Board of Supervisors to allow the first due EMS provider for the entirety of the Township to be served by Longwood Fire Company. This would stop the dispatching of two ambulances on ALS calls in the western part of Kennett Township. It would provide a $200,000 annualized savings to the region that funds the three fire companies, including Kennett Fire Company and Longwood Fire Company. It also provides a net savings to the end users in Kennett Township for ALS and BLS billings and eliminates tying up personnel and equipment that should be available for other emergency calls.
This recommendation is not without debate and significant emotionality. Kennett Fire Company has been serving the community since 1875, many of those years with an ambulance. Many of you see Kennett Fire as the first to provide emergency response to our community, making it difficult to see any service eliminated as a way to contain spending and provide consistent service to the community. The most difficult part of this recommendation to the Board is that it may impact our neighboring communities as well, but we are charged with spending your tax dollars wisely and making sure you are provided with high-quality emergency services. The extensive studies that were done locally and County-wide reached the same conclusion: that we would be best served by one EMS provider.
Response Time Change: You may be wondering if Kennett Township moves to a sole provider, will that change response times? The short answer: no. The long answer: Longwood Fire Company has publicly agreed to station an ambulance at Kennett Fire Company, which would mean the geographical location of ambulances is not changed for BLS units and a paramedic would now be stationed closer to residents west of Bayard Road. Response time will be improved for ALS calls and unchanged for BLS calls. If it is unfeasible for Longwood Fire to station their ambulance at Kennett Fire Company, Longwood has committed to finding another location in or near the Borough to station their ambulance so that response time will not be impacted.
Final Thoughts: I want to acknowledge that Kennett Township is very fortunate to be served by very talented and dedicated first responders in both Fire Companies. Both the volunteer and paid staff are dedicated to the health and safety of our community, and we are fortunate to have them as friends and neighbors. They work and volunteer in both Kennett Fire Company and Longwood Fire Company. The recommendation being evaluated is not a testament to the quality of care being provided by either company, but rather the financial impacts of changing times and the need to ensure everyone has equal access to advanced care when needed with the shortest response times possible. They take their role in our community very seriously and we are lucky to have them. Thank you to all our first responders.
Lastly, this letter is not intended to provide every detail about the policy recommendation that your Board of Supervisors is considering. Its intent is to keep you informed about this important topic on our upcoming agenda, prompt you to investigate further (see links below), provide your input, and attend the meeting virtually by Zoom if you so choose. There is much more that goes into dissecting the intricacies of this policy including response time, Unit Hour Utilization, call acuity, level of care, EMS delivery models, professional consultant evaluations, and financial impacts. I encourage you to review the information available and engage your Board of Supervisors and Township staff with thoughts and questions you may have.
Thank you and take care.
Dr. Richard L. Leff
Chair, Board of Supervisors, Kennett Township