Ellwood City firefighters pushing for 24/7 emergency services

ELLWOOD CITY, Pa. — Overgrown and empty, the shutdown of the Ellwood City Hospital has impacted emergency services.

“It’s sometimes been half an hour, 45 minutes or even an hour. It all depends on where they are at,” said Alice Smith, who lives in the borough.

That’s how long Smith said they’ve waited for an ambulance.

“We can be on scene in the borough anywhere in less than five minutes — 99% of the time the patients are still on the phone with 911 when we knock on the door,” said Ellwood City Fire Chief Rick Myers.

Myers told Channel 11 the fire department is only certified to provide basic life support like CPR or automated external defibrillation, so they are waiting with patients for the ambulance to provide that next level of care.

Ambulance delays have forced the department to look at other options to help. That’s why it is going through the process to become advanced-life-support certified to provide 24/7 paramedic coverage.

“Now we can give you medication, start intubation, hang fluids or help you do. It’s everything an ambulance can do except transport,” Myers said.

Now the department has more equipment and tools to help save lives faster, and is the first in Lawrence County to make the change.

“That would help a lot — 100% really. We are right here if anybody needs that stuff, they can come right here,” Smith said.

Although it doesn’t come without a cost. The former Ellwood City Hospital Foundation has promised the funding to help get all the necessary equipment and pay for the paramedics to get the program started this fall. But to keep it going, the borough is proposing a $1 million tax increase that voters will have to approve on November’s ballot.

“When you look at a house that’s 75,000 dollars in the borough of Ellwood City — that means the person is going to pay roughly $75 a year in extra taxes to what they pay now. A $100,000 (house) — they will pay $100 more a year. It’s very minimal for the service we are going to provide — is there a cost you can put on that? I don’t think there is,” Myers said.

The borough and fire department plan to hold several town halls to answer questions before the election.

All those meetings will be held at the fire station on Aug. 23 and Sept. 26 from 6-8 p.m. and on Oct. 22 from 12-2 p.m.

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