Cranberry EMS Director Jeff Kelly said the increased call volume the service has seen has it looking at its future administrative needs, such as hiring a full-time person to handle billing or contracting an outside firm for the work.
CRANBERRY TWP — The number of calls the Cranberry Emergency Medical Service has responded to during the past couple years already has exceeded its projections for 2014. This increased call volume has the service's administration taking another look at its future staffing and needs earlier than anticipated. This past year, the call volumes for the Cranberry EMS increased by 13 percent, and they are expected to increase at least 10 percent this year. That rate of call growth during these two years outpaces the township's 18 percent rate of population growth over 10 years from 23,625 in 2000 to 28,098 in 2010. Officials had projected annual call growth of about 6 percent. Cranberry EMS provides 24-hour ambulance service to Cranberry, Seven Fields and the southeast portion of New Sewickley Township in Beaver County. Jeff Kelly, who became executive director for the Cranberry EMS two years ago, said calls have increased from 2,800 in 2011 to 3,464 in 2012, and volume is projected to exceed 3,800 this year. “It (call volume) is higher than we anticipated,” said Kelly, who estimated the numbers the ambulance service is experiencing is nearly two years ahead of projections. Although there is not one reason for the volume increase, Kelly said that through the last half of 2012 and into January this year, a large increase in calls came because of influenza and the norovirus outbreak that hit the region. There have been more medical calls, but accident calls have remained consistent with prior years. He said they are responding to fewer severe crashes than in the past. Kelly attributed that to improved traffic control efforts and patrols by the township police. Public safety director Jeff Schueler was out of the office last week and unable to be reached for comment. Earlier this month, the township approved a $1.6 million facility to be built next to its Route 19 fire station that will house the Cranberry EMS and will help it keep up with the growth demands. The call increases have Cranberry EMS looking at future shift scheduling and staffing to handle the demand. Cranberry EMS had put on an additional crew beginning in March 2011 because the number of calls answered by other mutual aid departments like Harmony EMS, Quality EMS and McCandless/Franklin Park EMS had increased by 20 percent. That number has dropped to about 8 percent with the addition of the third ambulance crew. “In the EMS world, you are not going to be able to cover every call. That's just a reality,” said Kelly, in explaining why there are mutual aid agreements with other communities and their EMS services. Cranberry EMS runs three staggered daylight shifts at 6 a.m., 8 a.m. and 11 a.m. during the week and 6 a.m. and 9 a.m. on weekends along with one overnight crew, said Kelly. The increased call volume also has Cranberry EMS looking at its future administration needs. Kelly said it is exploring whether to hire a full-time person to handle billing and collections or whether to contract with an outside firm for this work. Cranberry EMS recently sent out a second subscription mailing to township residents to help support the ambulance service and help people save money. “People don't realize that their $45 subscription can save them a $700-$800 bill later in the year,” Kelly said. If you don't have a subscription, Kelly said, the transport bill is sent to the insurance company and if it isn't covered, the bill is then sent to the person. If that person has a subscription, the amount not covered by insurance is written off as a business expense, and the patient is not billed.