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Interim Chief Hopes to Get Ambulance Service ‘Back on Track’
Written by Bradley Schlegel, Staff Writer
2022-07-27

            The new interim chief of operations of the Gilbertsville Area Community Ambulance Service is no stranger to the organization. John Doucette says his priorities include maintaining operations and helping increase the organization's productivity.

            Earlier this year, he ended a five-year stint as an emergency medical technician with Gilbertsville Ambulance. Now, he's becoming familiar with the organization's operational aspects.

            Doucette, a Douglass Township resident with more than 30 years of experience in Emergency Medical Services and EMS education experience, is willing to serve as long as necessary. He said he expects to spend at least one year in the role.

            "My top goal is to help this agency get back on track," said Doucette, who serves on the township's emergency service board, and had most recently been working on billing issues for the ambulance service.

            Earlier this month, the board hired Doucette – who was recommended by Douglass Township officials – after its two remaining members voted to fire Garry Schmoltze Sr. during a July 17 special meeting. Three board members resigned prior to an incident one day earlier at the station, located at 91 Jackson Road, according to Member Jessica Gisinger.

            She wrote in an email message that one retired out of state, another left for personal reasons, and the other left due to occupational demand at their regular job.

            Citing personnel issues, Gisinger declined to provide any further details on its decision to relieve Schmoltze – who had served as the chief since January 2009 – of his duties. According to Doucette, the board shut down the service to maintain a safe working environment.

            On Saturday, July 16, employees of the service discovered multiple firearms and ammunition stored at the facility. They expressed concern for their safety as well as concerns over internal financial matters, according to Barry Templin, chief of the Douglass Township Police Department.

            A search of the property the same day turned up no firearms or ammunition. Authorities later determined that they had been removed before officers arrived, according to a news release received late Wednesday morning. It states that the ambulance service has not officially filed a complaint with the Douglass Township Police Department relating to any concerns over internal financial matters.

            Andrew Duncan, the township's emergency management coordinator and the fire chief of Station 67, initially took the Gilbertsville Community Ambulance group out of service in his community at 6 a.m. on Sunday.

            According to supervisors Chairman Joshua Stouch, Duncan made the move over concerns related to staffing and personnel issues. An email message from Manager Pete Hiryak described those concerns as serious.

            In a separate message, the manager wrote that "it remains to be seen if the ambulance can continue to get the staff required to continue to handle medical calls on a regular basis."

            At approximately 11 a.m. on July 19, the ambulance service was placed back into service with the Montgomery County 911 dispatch. The organization resumed with all its current officers retained and its interim chief.

            During his first week in charge, Doucette estimates he put in 60 hours of work, including 36 hours covering ambulance shifts. The ambulance service responded to eight incidents between July 17 and July 24, including three on Thursday, July 21 and Friday, July 22, according to information provided by Todd Stieritz, the public affairs coordinator for the Montgomery County Department of Public Safety.

            "We didn't miss a call," Doucette said.

            The ambulance service currently relies on at least 15 employees, according to the interim chief. He said all of them are classified as part-time, but they put in full-time hours.

            Doucette said he would like to hire enough new staff to allow him to focus on the administrative end. According to the administrator, the service does not have any emergency medical responders on staff.

            Agencies across the country of all types are dealing with personnel shortages, according to Doucette. He said the more advanced the positions, the greater the deficit.


 

 

 

 

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