Progress being made as Lower Valley EMS works to address financial condition – TribLIVE


Progress is coming along as the Lower Valley Ambulance Service works with the Allegheny Valley North Council of Governments to improve its financial condition.

The ambulance service is seeking help through two consulting reviews to strengthen its administrative side and gain a better idea of how to reorganize.

“No one has questioned the EMS’s quality. We have a good EMS service,” said Tom Benecki, executive director of the local council of government. “We want to do everything we can to help them because we do not want to lose them.”

Benecki said through the Governor’s Center for Local Government Services, a peer-to-peer study is underway to develop a picture of the nature of its operations. He said the study could take at least six months to complete because of the multiple municipalities that Lower Valley services.

The crew serves eight communities — Harmar, Cheswick, Springdale, Springdale Township, Oakmont, Verona and Rural Ridge and Indianola, both sections of Indiana Township.

The study will help find grants applicable for the service.

“We have had several peer-to-peer studies done,” Benecki said. “We did one or two based on police consolidation and that turned into current Allegheny Valley Regional Police Department.”

Lower Valley’s financial situation rose to attention when the service contacted the council of governments in October. A meeting was held in November to discuss the situation and how to improve it.

Benecki said a different consulting service will look over the service’s income, expenses and other financial aspects to identify areas of improvement. The consultation will begin in April and be completed by end of September.

General manager Robin Renfrew said reimbursements have been down and expenses have increased because of the covid pandemic. The service depends on revenue from reimbursements and its subscription drive.

A large majority of ambulance services do not receive funds from the municipalities they serve, and “we are left to survive off of reimbursements and fundraising,” Renfrew said. “A lot of expenses have not been reimbursed by the insurance.”

However, Renfrew said, the service’s operations will not be affected by the financial situation.

A capital fund was created to help pay for a new ambulance, which will cost $300,000.

Operations manager Jayme Laelle noted the situation is not unique to the Lower Valley Ambulance Service.

“Like every EMS agency locally and nationally, we are faced with decreased reimbursements, decreased staffing and increase in operating costs,” she said. “That creates significant challenges on a daily basis.”

Lavelle said the service has been applying for grants as they become available to offset revenue losses.

Tanisha Thomas is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tanisha at 412-480-7306, or via Twitter .

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