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High gas prices posing challenges for ambulance services

High gas prices impacting EMS crews
High gas prices impacting EMS crews 02:39

PITTSBURGH — The cost of gas is taking a toll on a vital service used during a medical emergency.

EMS workers never hesitate to get into gear when seconds matter, even during these tough financial times. Responding to a medical emergency has never been so costly for ambulance services.

Ambulance providers that pay for their own fuel are the most impacted by high gas prices. It's already hurting Ross/West View Emergency Medical Services Authority's budget for fuel.

"Our average fuel cost is about $50,000 a year, and we're already approaching that coming into June for this year. So, we'll be very close to a 50 to 75 percent increase in 2022 for our fuel expenses," said Greg Porter, the assistant director of the Ross/West View Emergency Medical Services Authority.

Porter said he and his crew are limiting what they do outside of 911 calls.

"There's certain things that we have to do, like training, truck checks, respond to calls obviously, equipment retrieval, but we are trying to minimize any non-essential runs to minimize the amount of gas we consume unnecessarily," Porter said.

Crews are also using the fuel in their tanks wisely. 

"We are trying to limit the amount of time that vehicles sit outside in idle, which sometimes in the summer is difficult because we have things in the vehicles that need to be climate controlled and that's managed by the gasoline or diesel motor," said Porter.

The average gas price in Pennsylvania reached $5.03 for regular gas and $6.19 for diesel gas on Wednesday. Pittsburgh's average reached up to $5 for regular and $6.02 for diesel.

Porter said reimbursements from government insurance providers, like Medicaid and Medicare, do not cover the full cost of sending an ambulance out on a call. On top of that, just because fuel prices are up, you won't see that on your ambulance bill.

Porter said the Ross/West View EMS employees and volunteers will stay driven to help community members during an emergency.

"Certainly, we want them to call 911 if they are having a medical emergency. We're still going to come take care of them. I would just ask that they consider all the things that go into running an organization like this. Our career staff has to report regardless, but think about the volunteers that are driving in here on their own time to help the community," he said.

If they go over budget, they'll shift money from a different budget line item and cut something else. Examples included uniforms or equipment. 

Ross/West View EMSA provides services to the municipalities of Ross Township, West View Borough, Millvale Borough, Reserve Township and Ohio Township.

Other local EMS paying for their own fuel told KDKA-TV that they are adjusting as well, while other ambulance providers said their municipality pays for their gas.

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