Apr. 21, 2020

HARRISBURG–Working to protect the state’s dedicated first responders and the citizens who rely on them, the General Assembly has approved and sent to the governor’s desk Rep. Clint Owlett’s (R-Tioga/Bradford/Potter) bill to authorize ambulance staffing waivers and extend benefits to first responders who contract COVID-19.

“Our emergency medical services and other first responders are vital to our efforts to combat and protect against the spread of COVID-19,” Owlett said. “This will be an important tool to protect their health and safety and that of the residents they serve.”

House Bill 1869 would 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 last week to include any company regardless of location.

Watch Rep. Owlett’s comments in the House chamber here.

“I’m excited to see an idea I had to help our rural ambulance companies best serve their communities being expanded to encompass the entire state,” Owlett said. “While our rural emergency medical services have been struggling for some time to meet mandated staffing levels, the spread of COVID-19 is making it increasingly difficult for ambulance companies in many areas of the state to continue their life-saving services.

“We cannot allow our current laws to prevent trained medical professionals from doing their jobs and helping people in need,” he added.

Owlett also praised Senate amendments to the bill that would 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 ambulance staffing portion of Owlett’s bill builds on action earlier this month when the Department of Health issued guidance making adjustments to several staffing requirements as a result of the COVID-19 disaster emergency.

The bill was first adopted by the House last fall as one of more than a dozen measures in the “Helpers and Heroes” package of legislation aimed at supporting first responders and ensuring continued access to life-saving services for all Pennsylvanians.

Representative Clint Owlett
68thLegislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Media Contact: Patricia Hippler