CAMERON COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ) – The average call an ambulance service answers totals more than $500. Cameron County has a high elderly population, so the ambulance service answers a lot of advanced life support calls for medicare service, which is even more expensive.
“For medicare, around a $1,200 call, we get less than $400. Then, 40% of that goes to the ALS service,” said Tonya Wennin, the executive director of the Cameron County Ambulance.
The rising costs of calls, equipment, and salaries of the employees far outweigh the return of funds that come back into the building. The deficit has left the ambulance service teetering on the brink of closure.
The ambulance’s board president Lisa Housler said the department operates in a $6,000-$8,000 deficit each month. A total of nearly $100,000 per year in shortfalls. That’s without the cost of any equipment malfunctions. Leaving Wennin to worry, how much longer can they keep the lights on?
“Yesterday… I was concerned… I was very concerned as to how we were going to make payroll,” Wennin said.
Then, Tuesday morning, county commissioners offered a lifeline, by way of a $100,000 donation. The donation will keep the lights on, for now, allowing the ambulance service to continue operations. If the day comes where the Cameron County Ambulance does close its doors, that burden falls on St. Marys and neighboring Potter County ambulance services. Response times would then be more than 30 minutes or more.
“It wouldn’t be feasible. So it’s a necessity to keep our ambulance service going. We gave them $100,000 out of our “American Rescue Plan” funding,” said Ann Losey, a Cameron County commissioner.
Although the donation keeps the ambulance open, Wennin added that it doesn’t solve their problem. State representative Martin Kauser has joined the effort to solve the problem. Working alongside the county, searching for grants to help try to fund some of their necessities. One of the biggest necessities includes a new stretcher.
If the ambulance service can’t get this life-saving equipment, then the surrounding counties will have to answer the calls.
“We can’t rely on Potter County or Elk County to cover Cameron County just merely off from the response time aspect,” Losey said.
Sign up for the WTAJ Newsletter for the latest local news, weather and community events that matter to you.