THORNHURST TOWNSHIP – Changes in ambulance service in part of Monroe County has one department in nearby Lackawanna County fighting to survive.
Thornhurst Ambulance Squad is meeting Monday night with leaders from Coolbaugh Township to try and sort out EMS coverage in several gated communities.
Thornhurst Ambulance Squad used to be the primary EMS provider to two gated communities in the Poconos. But Tobyhanna and Coolbaugh Townships now have Pocono Mountain Regional EMS taking care of those calls – something that could cause some major changes in both Lackawanna and Monroe Counties in the near future.
After about 35 years of responding to calls, Thornhurst Ambulance Squad is now fighting to survive. Just last month, the mostly volunteer ambulance service got notice from Monroe County 911 that Thornhurst was no longer the primary responder to Arrowhead Lake or Riverfront Estates, two communities only minutes away.
"We don't really understand that. We've never had any complaints. They've never called us, so we're not really sure at this point,” said Thornhurst Ambulance Squad Captain Sue Remak.
Taking over is Pocono Mountain Regional EMS, a paid provider.
Coolbaugh and Tobyhanna Townships made the decision. According to Township meeting minutes, response time and dropped calls were the main concern.
Thornhurst’s captain says she has proof her volunteers respond faster.
"About six to seven minutes faster,” said Remak.
"And what does that mean to someone in medical trouble?"
“Life and death,” replied Remak.
Some residents who live at Arrowhead Lakes say Thornhurst Ambulance has always been reliable, and this new change in service isn't sitting well with many of the people who live here.
"I think it's a disgrace, because here at Thornhurst is only two, three miles away, they're prompt,” said Elmer Money of Coolbaugh Township.
Homer and Monica Money both live in Arrowhead Lake. They’re concerned Pocono Mountain Regional is too far away for the hundreds of seniors living here.
"If they have to wait for an ambulance to reach them, they're not going to make it,” said Monica Money.
Coolbaugh Township supervisors told Newswatch 16 they will hold a fact finding meeting Monday night.
But Thornhurst says if their ambulance can’t respond to those private developments, they’ll have to shut down due to a lack of funds – and then other Lackawanna County Ambulance Crews will have to cover calls in Thornhurst.
"Hopefully coming out of it, they'll understand they made a mistake, if not, we'll have to give our notice,” said Thornhurst Ambulance Squad Volunteer Steven MacDonald.
That meeting is Monday at 7p.m. at the Thornhurst Volunteer Company. Residents from Arrowhead Lake say they expect hundreds of people to attend.