Pa. EMS squad removed, then reinstated

Garry Schmoltze, who was Gilbertsville Ambulance's chief for the last 12 years, said he was given no reason for his termination


Evan Brandt
The Mercury

DOUGLASS, Pa. — Two days after being taken out of service to respond to emergency calls in the township, Gilbertsville Ambulance has been reinstated by the township's emergency management coordinator, as details about the turmoil at the organization continue to be revealed.

Among them is that MediaNews Group has confirmed that the Gilbertsville Ambulance building was searched by township police over the weekend, although the reason for the search is currently unknown.

"I feel like I'm getting railroaded," said Garry Schmoltze, who was Gilbertsville Ambulance's chief for the last 12 years. (Photo/Garry Schmoltze)

Douglass (Mont.) Township Emergency Management Coordinator Andrew Duncan reinstated Gilbertsville Ambulance at approximately 11 a.m. Tuesday, according to township supervisors' Chairman Joshua Stouch.

As MediaNews Group reported previously, Duncan had designated Gilbertsville Ambulance as being "removed from service" over the weekend, a status Stouch confirmed after Monday night's supervisors' meeting at which the situation was not discussed.

Duncan's decision did not affect Gilbertville Ambulance's ability to respond to calls in other townships.

Tuesday afternoon, Stouch provided more information to MediaNews Group.

He reported that the ambulance service's "board has reorganized in light of resignations."

He further reported that John Doucette has been named interim Chief of Operations and that the former chief, " Garry Schmoltze is no longer with the ambulance (no further on that)."

However, Schmoltze, who has been the chief of Gilbertsville Ambulance for the last 12 years, had a few more things to say on that.

Schmoltze said he was given no reason for the termination which, he said, may not even be in keeping with the organization's by-laws since two board members do not represent a majority of the board.

"I feel like I'm getting railroaded," he said.

Schmoltze, 67, is a retired police officer with 28 years of service and has been in the field of public safety for 50 years, starting as a volunteer fireman when he was 16, he said.

Doucette, who would not elaborate on Schmoltze's status because it is "a personnel matter," did say the board resignations came as no surprise.

Responding to a MediaNews Group query, Doucette wrote that "three board members resigned, we currently have five board members and two open vacancies. All three board members stated they would be stepping down from their respective positions several months ago prior to this past weekend. One is retiring out of state, one for personal reasons and the other due to occupational demands at their regular job."

Doucette also confirmed that "the police, with permission of our organization, did search the property and no issues of concern were found."

He referred a query about the reason for the search to police. Douglass Police Chief Barry Templin did not immediately respond to a call seeking comment.

"In the meantime, Gilbertsville Ambulance has had a proud history of almost four decades of service to western Montgomery County and Berks County. Our staff are dedicated to the service and care of the communities we serve," Doucette emphasized in his response. "We look forward to continuing our mission to provide timely, compassionate, and definitive care to all those in need."

Stouch said Monday night that each January during the supervisors' reorganization meeting, a recognized medical services provider is selected and it is currently Gilbertsville Ambulance. The township is also served by Bally and Boyertown ambulance services, as well as by Goodwill in Pottstown.

According to the monthly report, submitted by Schmoltze and accepted Monday night by the supervisors, Gilbertsville Ambulance responded to 113 calls for service in June.

Of those calls, 87 were in Montgomery County with 27 in Douglass (Mont.); 28 in New Hanover; 12 in Upper Pottsgrove; three in Pennsburg; 12 in Pottstown; three in Red Hill and one each in Upper Frederick and Upper Hanover townships.

In Berks County, June saw Gilbertsville respond to 18 calls for service in Boyertown; two in Bechtelsville; three in Colebrookdale and one each in Douglass (Berks), Earl and Washington townships.

As of the June report, Gilbertsville Ambulance had responded to 654 calls for service in 2022.

In what he insists is pure coincidence, Stouch floated the idea last month of the creation of a regional ambulance authority, to raise funds and govern the region's ambulance companies, some of which are struggling.

Speaking to the Pottstown Metropolitan Area Regional Planning Committee, Stouch said most ambulance services are sharing the exact same group of EMTs and paramedics.

"They're working one shift at Goodwill and then another at Gilbertsville or Trappe," he said. Difficulties keeping Gilbertsville fully manned have been cited as a difficulty this week by both Stouch and Schmoltze.

The shortage of emergency medical personnel is not limited to Gilbertsville but is occurring across the region and across the nation.

In March, Bloomberg News reported that "turnover among paramedics and emergency management technicians ranged from 20 percent to 30 percent annually in 2020, according to a survey the American Ambulance Association released late in 2021. That means ambulance services can expect to replace their entire staff roughly every four years."

The solution Stouch introduced for exploration is an ambulance authority that is autonomous like a water and sewer authority. It would be empowered to levy a fee on each household in the participating municipalities, similar to a fire tax, and thus not being a drain on township budgets, It would also spread the cost among as many people, all potential patients, as possible.

A regional ambulance authority currently exists and has operated outside Pittsburgh for decades.

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(c)2022 The Mercury, Pottstown, Pa.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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