Cambridge Springs ambulance service expected to close Jan. 2018
The Cambridge Area Volunteer Ambulance Service was established in 1975. But Wednesday, their chief told the community that starting in Jan. 2018, it's likely they will be closed.
CAMBRIDGE SPRINGS, Pa. - The Cambridge Area Volunteer Ambulance Service was established in 1975. But Wednesday, their chief told the community that starting in Jan. 2018, it's likely they will be closed.
"We're supposed to be in service 24 hours a day, seven days a week," said CAVAS Chief Ronald Riley. "We're in service probably about 30-40 percent of that time."
Also known as "CAVAS," the emergency service provider is experiencing a drastic decline in volunteers, down to just six staff members this month. That means they are running fewer calls, and therefore paying other companies to do so, costing CAVAS big money. Riley said CAVAS is nearly $100,000 in debt.
"I would like to see the ambulance service go out and be able to pay off all of their debts rather than be in debt and not be able to pay everybody off," he said.
The result is longer response times for patients as crews from surrounding areas, notably Meadville, are forced to pick up the extra calls.
"We move one of our trucks up to Saegertown when we're not busy," said Meadville Ambulance Owner Erie Henry, who began the expanded service late this summer. "It cuts off about 8-10 miles and several minutes, so it helps out."
CAVAS, a membership-driven organization, stopped offering new memberships in August and subsequently let their current memberships expire at that time foreseeing the closure.
Should CAVAS close, the Cambridge Springs Volunteer Fire Department could take over quick response services, duties they don't currently perform. This is the latest example of what's being called a statewide issue. In 2016, Cochranton Ambulance Service stopped offering basic life support services, switching to just quick response services.
The Pennsylvania Department of Health requires groups like CAVAS to provide a 90-day notice before closing. But CAVAS leaders hope it will draw potential volunteers so they can keep their doors open. Because without those volunteers, 42 years of service will end in just three months.
"It's hard, I've got 31 years in here," said Riley. "It's hard to see it go."