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HARRISBURG – Rep. Clint Owlett’s (R-Tioga/Bradford/Potter) bill to help ambulance companies and first responders has been signed into law by the governor.
“Support for the Commonwealth’s first responders is a cornerstone of our public health system,” Owlett said. “If we do not take care of our first responders by giving them the support and tools they need to do their jobs, they cannot take care of us. This new law will ultimately help ensure the health and safety of our communities across the state.”
Owlett introduced House Bill 1869, now Act 17 of 2020, in response to a meeting held in Potter County with emergency responders from across the region. Among the many challenges outlined at the session, staffing was a major point of discussion. Ambulances that were not meeting the state-mandated staffing levels were forced to stay at the station, at times significantly delaying response times for patients.
“Our laws were actually PREVENTING people from receiving medical care when they needed it the most,” Owlett said. “That is inexcusable, especially in rural areas where the next closest ambulance or hospital facility may be 30 minutes away or more.”
The new law will allow ambulance companies to apply to the Pennsylvania Department of Health for a waiver on staffing requirements for a Basic Life Support (BLS) ambulance. The bill originally would have applied only to ambulance companies in rural counties but was amended by the state Senate to include any company regardless of location. The COVID-19 pandemic has led to staffing shortages in various areas across the state.
Owlett was also pleased to have his bill amended to ensure benefits for police and members of the Pennsylvania National Guard who may be subject to quarantine due to illness caused by or exposure to COVID-19. The bill would provide 60 days of paid leave and would not require use of sick leave or vacation time.
The portion of the law addressing COVID-19 benefit protections takes effect immediately while the section regarding staffing waivers will take effect in 60 days.
Writing: Representative Owlett’s Office
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