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Chester County EMS Council looks for solutions as it faces a 2nd hospital closure

EMS providers are trying to find a way to provide care for patients as a second hospital prepares to close.

  • Kenny Cooper/WHYY
Brandywine Hospital

 Tower Health

Brandywine Hospital

(Chester) — With Jennersville Hospital shuttered and Brandywine Hospital about to close, the Chester County EMS Council has released a “white paper” on the state of emergency medical care in the county, but also puts forth possible solutions.

“We just really want to make sure we can get as many people aware as possible about what we’re facing and the concerns that we have coming here in just a couple short weeks,” said EMS council president Chaz Brogan.

The council consists of emergency medical service agencies, hospitals, and public safety organizations. Its purpose is to provide a “unified voice” for the interests of all 32 EMS agencies serving Chester County.

Given the issues already confronting suburban ambulance services with the recent closure of Jennersville Hospital, plus the scheduled closure of Brandywine Hospital on Jan. 31, the EMS council crunched the numbers on the impact.

It found that the remaining Chester County hospitals will absorb more than 75% of the patient volume, which will have a direct impact on EMS operations — increased time waiting with incoming patients at an emergency department for hospital staff to take over, known as “wall time.”

“We’re concerned that the ambulances we have available today are all going to take longer to handle one call at a time. We’re going to get to a point where potentially somebody is waiting for an ambulance to come from a neighboring area or potentially two over,” Brogan said.

The council’s December 2021 survey found that 100% of EMS agencies are experiencing longer wall times. Fourteen percent are experiencing wall times that are 35 to 45 minutes longer. The council’s white paper also said that anecdotally, over the last few weeks, wall times have skyrocketed to as long as three or more hours.

“As these other emergency departments deal with a higher patient volume … there’s just no physical place to put patients. And the result of that is, the patient needs to wait on the ambulance stretcher with the ambulance crew until there’s a bed available. And obviously, the external impact of that is the ambulance isn’t available for somebody else who needs it for longer,” Brogan said.

On top of that, staffing and funding issues remain huge obstacles, though many of the county’s 73 municipalities remain hesitant to help.

“We mentioned in the white paper, when we support these folks having higher wages, we just need the means to do that. And right now — we don’t have that. So as we’re looking at increased wait times, many agencies want to increase their staff and try to put up an extra ambulance. And the problem with that is there’s just not enough people out there to hire at this point,” Brogan said.

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