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Topton Ambulance

Overcoming Financial Hardships During an Industry Crisis: Topton Ambulance

In rural Berks County, there’s only one ambulance service that covers 10 municipalities – Topton Ambulance. They serve all or parts of Longswamp Township, Topton Borough, Lyons Borough, Rockland Township, Maxatawny Township, Kutztown Borough, Greenwich Township, Albany Township, Richmond Township, and District Township. Like many other EMS agencies nationwide, Topton Ambulance, a crucial emergency medical service provider, felt the strain of financial distress due to a lack of funding and staffing. The stakes were incredibly high; if they were to go under, these areas would be left without immediate access to emergency medical services—forcing residents to wait for hours.

When Topton Ambulance faced financial hardship, it turned to Fleetwood Bank for help. Fleetwood Bank understood the critical role the ambulance service played in the community and offered financial assistance for their mortgage, helping Topton Ambulance stabilize and expand its operations. They also helped Topton Ambulance finance two new ambulances, which was imperative as they expanded to also cover the Kutztown area.

“The solid foundation and partnership provided by Fleetwood Bank gave us the comfort and ability to expand.”

The closure of Kutztown Ambulance, which represented the third community ambulance service provider in the state to fold in 2023, presented an opportunity. On the day of the closure, Michael Richards, the Executive Director of Topton Ambulance, recalls the moment he received a phone call from Maxatawny Township informing him that the Kutztown Area would be without an ambulance in two hours. “I had just sat down in the dentist’s chair and received the call from the township. Having no ambulance wasn’t an option, so we had to step up. We doubled in size in a matter of a day and have been serving the area since.” Fleetwood Bank’s financing helped procure essential equipment, including two new ambulances, ensuring uninterrupted service to the community.

“We found that our values aligned with a small bank and wanted to stay with a small bank. Community ambulance, community bank—they go together. Whereas our previous banks dismissed us as a sinking ship in a failing industry, Fleetwood Bank saw opportunity and bet on us. With this partnership, we were able to double in size within a year’s time.”

Topton Ambulance’s journey highlights the broader challenges facing EMS providers in Pennsylvania. The closure of multiple ambulance services in recent years underscores the crisis facing EMS services. The reliance on insurance reimbursements, covering only 60% of costs, leaves EMS agencies operating at a deficit. Recruitment and retention of qualified personnel pose significant challenges, further straining resources. In 2021, the EMS report released by the Department of Health in Pennsylvania revealed that a total of 4,053 EMS certifications were not renewed, highlighting the high turnover rate in the state. Because of this, response times have increased by two minutes across the state, and those two minutes could be critical in saving a life.

Today, Topton Ambulance covers 88 square miles and averages 10 emergency phone calls per day. Prior to adding the Kutztown Borough to their coverage territory, this average used to be roughly five emergency phone calls per day. Detailing the transformation of the organization since its founding in 1953, Mike states, “There has been a lot of change. Back then, it was only volunteers who took phone calls on their home line and then ran out to the EMS Cadillacs. Now our trucks are equipped with state-of-the-art technology that just wasn’t available in a Cadillac. We now have more staff than volunteers. In addition to our emergency services, we offer training on CPR services as well as an on-site medical team at events, such as the Kutztown Folk Festival and Longswamp Township’s Swamp Fest.”

With personalized service and a commitment to understanding their clients’ needs, Fleetwood Bank plays a vital role in supporting local businesses and essential services like EMS.

About Topton Ambulance: 

Michael Richards serves as the Executive Director of Topton Ambulance and has been with the organization since 2004 as a paramedic, and he has been managing the organization since 2017. They provide 24/7/365 Basic and Advanced life support services.  These services are provided from their main location on Home Road in Longswamp Township, as well as their second station on Quarry Road in Maxatawny Township. In addition, they offer standby services for special events and a variety of training classes.

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