History

Chartered initially in 1983 by a group of Emergency Medical Services (EMS) stakeholders on the “West Shore”, as it is known in the Capitol Region, work began to provide advanced pre-hospital care to the area. Early in 1985, the Basic Life Support (BLS) ambulance services of the greater West Shore approached Holy Spirit Hospital for assistance in forming an Advanced Life Support (ALS) service for the area. The West Shore Chamber of Commerce was invited to add expertise and soon became the leader in this “community development” project.  By August of 1985, leadership had been hired and the initial fund drive was initiated.  The official launch of West Shore Advanced Life Support Services, Inc. (WSALS) was in October 9th of 1985, with a single unit in service.

As the call volume grew, the need for additional staff became obvious. In 1988, a second unit was placed in the Upper Allen Fire Station, responding to northern York County and portions of northern Adams County. In January 1989 WSALS met the needs of the citizens in eastern Perry County, adding ALS service in the Duncannon area.

By 1990, WSALS realized the need to become more efficient as a provider of prehospital services. The opportunity existed to become a subsidiary of the Sisters of Christian Charity (who operated Holy Spirit Hospital) and reduce operational expenses. The corporate change took place without any change in clinical operations in January of 1991.

At about that same time, a group of the local ambulance organizations approached WSALS for assistance. These ambulance organizations saw decreasing revenues and increasing expenses. They needed to change to survive. It took several years to develop the organizational structure, but in January 31st 1994 Mechanicsburg Community Ambulance, Upper Allen Township EMS, and Wormleysburg Fire Company EMS merged with and into WSALS. At that time the trade name of West Shore Emergency Medical Services (WSEMS) was adopted.

As the prehospital environment continued to evolve, WSEMS expanded services to meet the expanding community needs. Wheelchair vans and invalid coaches were added to the fleet to better serve our communities. An Advisory Committee was established to ensure municipal input for the operation. WSEMS continued to grow; but, at the same time, continued to focus on our patients, our communities, and our staff.

Throughout the history of ALS services in Cumberland and Perry Counties an excellent working relationship had existed between WSEMS and Carlisle Hospital’s paramedic service, Carlisle Area ALS. Realizing the need to collaborate even further, discussion took place late in 1996 concerning the merger of Carlisle ALS with and into WSEMS. On March 1st, 1997, the merger took place and the foundation for a regional system was established. An additional Advisory Committee was developed to once again assure input from the 69 municipalities served by WSEMS.

Collaboration with local BLS organizations increased service and reduced costs. During this same time period an opportunity existed to better serve the citizens in Lower Allen Township and Hampden Township. ALS squads were placed in both townships to better meet the needs. As the merger with Carlisle ALS became a reality, another opportunity to improve service became obvious. West Shore EMS partnered with Carlisle Community Ambulance and Yellow Breeches Ambulance to provide Mobile Intensive Care Units (MICU) to better serve the citizens in the Carlisle area.

 

With some ebb and flow of service area over time, our growth continued. Several BLS services grew to include ALS themselves.  Some of the highlights include:

    • July 30th, 2000 Chambersburg Area Advanced Life Support Service merger (Chambersburg, Shippensburg and St. Thomas)
    • 2012 Rebranding as Holy Spirit EMS, 50th Anniversary of Holy Spirit Hospital
    • 2014 Holy Spirit Health System became a Geisinger affiliate
    • 2014 Collaborative MICU with Citizens Hose Company (Dillsburg area)
    • 2015 Collaborative MICU with East Pennsboro Township EMS
    • 2015 Danville Ambulance Service Merger
    • 2017 Collaborative MICU with Good Will Fire (Minersville)
    • 2017 Northern York service area added (Dillsburg and Wellsville)
    • 2018 Berwick Area Ambulance merger
    • 2018 Collaborative MICU with Tremont Area Ambulance
    • 2019 Geisinger becomes parent of WSALS, now doing business as Geisinger Emergency Medical Services
    • 2019 Staff leasing in Millville

With such a substantial footprint beyond the area of Holy Spirit (now Geisinger Holy Spirit), we were repositioned within the Geisinger system and now are identified as Geisinger Emergency Medical Services. We are an amalgamation of organizations, each bringing their own substantial history, some of them pre-dating the founding of the organization.  All those legacies are now joined, as we grow into more areas such as our Mobile Integrated Healthcare.  At the core, our mission remains the same: to provide the highest quality care to those who are entrusted to us.

What began as a single unit has evolved into 3 divisions with 65 vehicles stationed across 8 different counties. Despite all the growth, the heart of each of our local entities remains, providing local care from the people who have always been there for each community.  While proud of our past and looking forward to the future, we are honored to be a part of the lives we impact today. We look forward to celebrating our 35th anniversary in 2020!