Pa. ambulance company trying to return to full service

The organization was investigated in 2017 by state police and its insurance company for financial mismanagement

By Bill Wellock
The Citizens' Voice

SWOYERSVILLE, Pa. — Swoyersville’s local ambulance company is trying to return to full operations with a paid staff by February, even as it deals with an investigation into previous financial mismanagement.

A $5,000 contribution from Swoyersville Borough council, after a unanimous vote Tuesday, will help the organization, officially named the Swoyersville Police Community Ambulance Association.

The organization was investigated in 2017 by state police and its insurance company investigation into financial mismanagement, new president Bob White said.

White became president in April 2017, which is when he learned of the mismanagement.

Inspections have revealed poor financial management, not fraud, and the group has made changes to prevent further problems, he said, while reading from a letter that went out to residents as part of the organization’s annual membership drive.

“That’s why there are new people in now,” he said.

Among those changes are a new board of directors and new rules for signing checks. Only three people are authorized to sign checks from the group and each check requires two signatures. The borough council also has a liaison to the group now, councilman Adam Christian.

“We’re running it like a business should be run,” White said.

The contribution from borough council will help the group as it pays off debt and rents space at 99 Scott St.

The group also owes Trans-Med Ambulance Inc., a for-profit ambulance company based in Luzerne, a little more than $5,000, he said. Swoyersville Ambulance must pay Trans-Med for advanced life support calls that require a paramedic.

But it was unclear exactly how much the borough’s contribution would help. White said the organization is still trying to determine how much money it needs in its annual budget.

Mayor Chris Concert said bringing the ambulance company back is important.

“Do we do nothing and let the ambulance go under or do we at least say they tried?” he said. “I trust the people they have in there now.”

The organization is beginning an annual membership drive. If you buy a membership and the ambulance company transports you, they accept whatever insurance pays as payment for the ambulance ride, White said. If the insurance payment is lower than the typical fee, that could mean the group waives some portion of their transport fee for members. That fee can range from around $400 to $1,000, he said.

The group is currently using volunteer members and placing themselves “out of service” with county 911 when they don’t have enough people to form a crew. When an ambulance is out of service, 911 immediately dispatches the second-due ambulance for an area.

The organization hopes to return to 24/7 service that includes part-time paid employees soon.

In other business, Swoyersville will begin holding regular work sessions ahead of its borough council meetings.

Concert suggested the addition to the borough’s calendar during a meeting Tuesday, and council approved the suggestion.

Council has held discussions ahead of meetings if there was a particularly pressing topic, Councilman Joseph Onzik said. But now, public work sessions will be ahead of each voting meeting, Concert said.

Copyright 2018 The Citizens' Voice

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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