Barrar and Committee Consider Consolidation of Emergency Medical Services Councils
HARRISBURG – Led by chairman Rep. Steve Barrar (R-Chester/Delaware), the Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee held a hearing this week about the possible consolidation of regional emergency medical services (EMS) councils. One proposal is to trim the current 14 councils down to six.

Potential benefits include cost savings, an improved span of control and exceptional customer service as the larger size allows for a quicker response and greater knowledge base.

“Cost savings and efficiencies are important to this committee, but the ultimate goal is to make sure that the emergency responders have the best training and equipment that we can provide,” Barrar said. “I’m proud of the work they do and am committed to helping in any way possible.”

Richard Gibbons, director of the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s Bureau of EMS, explained that the distance to a regional office has lessened in importance as technology has advanced, no longer forcing reliance on standard mail service or person-to-person contact.

“Our goals are not to disadvantage the system, but rather to maintain and improve the system. As we continue to do on a daily basis, we will evaluate all programs and projects in comparison to state priorities and plans and make the best decisions possible,” Gibbons added.

Opinions were strong on both sides of the issue, with numerous concerns about consolidation being raised. Gerald Wydro, emergency health services medical director for Bucks County, supports the current system that allows the people closest to the community and its EMS services to provide the system’s infrastructure and critical components.

“Relocating our EMS Council will serve to undermine and dilute the exceptional programs and cutting-edge regional projects for which Bucks County is known. Additionally, there will be an inherent increase in cost, travel time and lack of convenience for our EMS services and providers,” Wydro testified.

“While we talk about savings, have turf wars, play with maps and try to make one size fit all, this is about saving the individual, the end user. When you’re calling 911, you’re generally experiencing one of the worst moments of your life. It is about ensuring that our emergency responders have the training and equipment they need so they can try to save that life,” Rep. Frank Farry (R-Bucks), also a volunteer firefighter, advocated.

The Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness and Education Committee had another informational meeting this week about two topics: the Pennsylvania Military Community Enhancement Commission and fire/emergency medical services training available through community colleges.

Frank Sullivan, director of the Pennsylvania Military Community Enhancement Commission, spoke about the need to prepare for the next Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC).

“With each denied BRAC request, the Department of Defense grows increasingly desperate for cuts. There is no question as to whether there will be another BRAC; the question is when,” Sullivan said. “With or without the authorization for a BRAC, the services do possess the power to move equipment, gradually reduce manpower and eventually – functionally – close an installation.”

Sullivan highlighted the importance of having a plan in place to resist closure in Pennsylvania given the many jobs provided to local economies.

The hearing also included a debate regarding how to deliver fire/emergency medical services training, with some advocating for programs to be more readily available through community colleges and others suggesting training be available to high school students, with written permission from their parents given the potentially dangerous nature of the training. Students who attend trade schools and spend much of their senior year working in the community were a particular focus.

To view footage of the House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee’s informational meetings, click here and here.

Representative Stephen E. Barrar
160th District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Media Contact: Alison Evans
717.260.6206 /
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