As Manchester prepares to launch a township-run Emergency Medical Services Division within its Department of Public Safety, nearly 60 ambitious candidates participated in an extensive testing process this past Saturday at Manchester Township Middle School. This testing was the first step for those candidates wishing to be considered for employment with the Division of EMS.

“The candidates appeared eager to have the opportunity be a part of this new program,” said Chief Lisa Parker. “This is an exciting time for Manchester Township, as expanding EMS is one of the largest projects I’ve seen during my 30-year career here. It is also one that will help us to better serve our community in a significant way.”

Candidates for position of Emergency Medical Technician and Emergency Medical Technician/Firefighter were both tested during this past weekend’s session. All candidates were required to take a written examination for the position(s) they wished to be considered for and all candidates were required to complete three EMT skill stations. Those wishing to be considered for the position of EMT/Firefighter were also required to participate in a firefighter physical agility test.

Going forward, qualified candidates will undergo further testing and will be required to pass a thorough background investigation given the sensitive nature of their position, which will include entering residents’ homes, providing various levels of care, and handling private medical information. While the Division of EMS will initially launch in the first quarter of this year with only medical personnel, there is a planned second phase which will incorporate a few individuals with dual certification as an EMT and firefighter. These individuals will be used to supplement the township’s volunteer firefighters during daytime hours only, when many of the volunteers are unavailable because they are working.

“By having full-time EMS personnel, we will have a dedicated group of individuals who will be able to promptly and professionally serve the community all while continuing to train and keep their skills sharp,” said Chief Parker. “Service is more than simply responding to calls. Service is about working with our community to help people better care for themselves and each other. Once up and running, we also plan to have our personnel organize and present interactive programs to the community on topics such as preventative health and safety education as well as fire safety and prevention.”

In February of 2019, Chief Parker told the Mayor and members of Township Council that the township’s first aid call volume had become too large to be handled solely by volunteer first aid squads and that it might be time to consider alternative solutions. The solution agreed upon by the governing body was a township run Emergency Medical Services division. The decision to move in this direction was based on the fact that the township’s two volunteer first aid squads were only able to respond to approximately 25% of the nearly 10,500 first aid calls during the previous year, while the balance of the calls were being answered by a private vendor not supervised by the township. This downward trend continued in 2019, when there were more than 10,500 first aid calls within the township, of which the volunteer squads were only able to respond to 17% of them.

While our volunteer EMS personnel have always provided a valuable service to our residents, volunteerism has and continues to decline, both locally and nationally, while calls for service continue to increase. The growth of our town coupled with an overall decline in volunteerism has hampered each squad’s ability to provide emergency medical services. As such, the vast majority of first aid calls are answered by a private vendor, who not only charges the patient’s insurance carrier for services, but also bills the patient directly for any charges not covered or paid by insurance. Under this practice known as “balance-billing”, patients are personally responsible for any charges above-and-beyond those covered by their insurance carrier. Residents can rest assured that the township does not plan to balance bill for service calls — because the fear of a bill should never be a deterrent to seeking medical attention.

The township operated EMS Division, led by recently hired Director, Robert Baran, will operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Staff will be directly supervised by the township and held to the highest standards. Our goal will be to improve response times as well as the overall quality of service that our residents receive. While the EMS Division will be an added expense to the township, it is expected that the revenue generated from those insurance reimbursement rates outlined by law will cover the costs.