In 1975, David Varrelman, Police Chief of Mt. Lebanon, recognized the need for a paramedic response unit in Mt. Lebanon. He based this need on his experiences as a law enforcement officer in Los Angeles, California.
In Los Angeles, he witnessed the expertise and efficient patient care that Los Angeles County Paramedics provided. He was dissatisfied with the level of patient care that the Mt. Lebanon Police Department provided to victims of sudden illness or injury. In those days two police officers would be dispatched to a medical emergency in a station wagon, scooped the patient up and made a mad dash to St. Clair Hospital.
Chief Varrelman developed a comprehensive plan and submitted it to the Allegheny County Commissioners as a means of applying for Comprehensive Employment Training Act (CETA) grant money.
At the same time, Mr. Robert Fryer, owner of the South Hills Ambulance Service in Bridgeville, applied for a grant to begin a similar paramedic service in the communities of Dormont, Castle Shannon and Baldwin Township. Upon arrival of the grant money in the Spring of 1975 Chief Varrelman and Mr. Fryer held a joint testing session for potential employees. On October 27, 1975 the Mt. Lebanon Police Medical Team began responding to medical emergencies in Mt. Lebanon. At the same time South Hills Ambulance began servicing Baldwin Township, Dormont and Castle Shannon.
Both rescue units shared the same radio frequency as the police department and were dispatched as Rescue One (Mt. Lebanon) and Rescue Two (South Hills). They responded to emergencies in van-style ambulances and had a mutual aid agreement in effect when simultaneous calls were received.
Early on in the program it was recognized that the call volume was too low for the Paramedics operating in two separate systems to hone their skills as Advanced Life Support providers. For example, the Mt. Lebanon Police Medical Rescue Team had only 1,223 responses in it's first year. It was also recognized that it would be an expensive venture to operate both systems separately once the grant money had come to an end. The grant providers were again contacted and they agreed to fund the program for an additional year if the two services were combined. Thus, in 1976 Medical Rescue Team South was organized as a multi-community emergency medical service. Chief Varrelman was appointed as the Director of the service and Raymond E. Carlin was appointed as Senior Paramedic. A Board of Directors was created with each community appointing a representative.
Some highlights of that first year at MRTS were the design of a shoulder patch, which is still used today, and the purchase of a second ambulance. Additionally, MRTS purchased a LifePak 5 cardiac monitor which was a vast improvement over the 35 pound LifePak 4 which the paramedics were hauling up staircases on every call they responded. During MRTS' first year of operation they responded to 2,413 calls.
In 1978 David Varrelman gracefully stepped aside as Director of the service and Raymond Carlin was promoted to the Directorship and William J. Taylor, Jr. was promoted to Senior Paramedic. The volunteer segment became a stronger organization via recruitment drives and became a stepping stone for individuals beginning careers in EMS. It is estimated that approximately 100 Rescue Two volunteers have become EMS professionals, nurses and doctors during MRTS' first 15 years.
Highlights of the following years included the purchase of the first modular ambulance, Vehicle 4 in 1980. In 1982 MRTS moved to 424 Washington Road in Mt. Lebanon upon the renovation of a former gasoline station. In 1983 MRTS took an important step in financing it's operation by beginning to bill for patient services via the third party billing system.
MRTS became Medical Rescue Team South Authority (MRTSA), Inc. in 1984. After seven years of operations, the team hired a Secretary / Bookkeeper to manage their complex billing and documentation process. By becoming an authority the agency established a legal status in Pennsylvania. They also applied for and became a non-profit organization. The Board of Directors was expanded to eight members, two appointed from each community.
In 1986 MRTSA purchased and installed a computer system to better manage their administrative and billing functions.
In 1988 MRTSA signed a contract to provide Non-Emergency Transport Service (NETS) with St. Clair Hospital and the Greater Pittsburgh Cancer Center. This significant expansion was necessary to fund the provision of Emergency Medical Services to the communities.
In 1990 MRTSA appointed a Financial Director and expanded it's NETS operations to include general community coverage. The field staff was expanded to ten career Paramedics and four career Emergency Medical Technicians.
In October 1992 MRTSA began providing both emergency and non-emergency ambulance services to the Borough of Whitehall.
In the summer of 1994 MRTSA, in conjunction with Tri-Community South EMS and Baldwin EMS, began to provide wheelchair van service to the resident of their communities. The wheelchair van provided transportation to those residents who did not need to be transported to medical appointments via an ambulance.
In September 1994 MRTSA broke ground on it's new headquarters building at 315 Cypress Way in Mt. Lebanon. The new facility can house 12 emergency vehicles, has a mechanic's bay and contains a Community Education and Training Center.
In April of 1995 MRTSA began to provide both emergency and non-emergency ambulance service to the Borough of Green Tree. MRTSA also began providing the wheelchair van service independently to the six communities it serves. MRTSA hired Christine Coplan, Director of Development and Public Relations; Steven B. Cohen, Director of Education and John Champlin, mechanic. The position of Shift Supervisor was created and six field paramedics were promoted to fill these positions.
In 1997 MRTSA celebrated 20 years of service to the communities, recognizing five people who had been with MRTSA since the beginning. They were Don Baumgarten, member of the Board of Directors; Dave Buddemeyer, Shift Supervisor; Ray Carlin, Chief Executive Officer; Ray Cook, Shift Supervisor; and Bill Taylor, Director of Field Operations.
In the fall of 1998 MRTSA replaced it's entire fleet of ambulances and ordered a new wheelchair van. The new wheelchair van was able to accommodate both wheelchairs and stretchers.
In 1998 a pilot project began that added a Quick Response Vehicle staffed by the Shift Supervisors. The QRV allows the Shift Supervisor to respond to assist crews and provides for another paramedic in the field when all ambulances are busy.
In September 1998 Raymond E. Carlin resigned his position as Chief Executive Officer to accept a position with the Center for Emergency Medicine of Western Pennsylvania to work in Saudi Arabia with the Red Crescent Society Ambulance Service. William J. Taylor, Jr. was promoted to Chief Operations Officer and Lawrence A. Frank was promoted to Chief Financial Officer.
With the World Trade Center and Pentagon disasters occurring on September 11, 2001 MRTSA staff spearheaded a collection drive to assist the families of the firefighters, EMS and police personnel lost in the World Trade Center collapse.
In 2002 reorganization was done at MRTSA and Lawrence Franck was appointed Executive Director and 2 non-field positions were eliminated in an effort to streamline the operations of the Authority.
During 2003 Todd Pritchard was appointed Operations Manager with the responsiblity of day-to-day field operations of the Authority.
In 2005 MRTSA staff participated in Basic Vehicle Rescue Awareness training and also participated in the National Incident Command training. The Community Education program trained almost 3,000 in CPR/AED, ACLS and PALS, which is more than any other time in our history.
MRTSA added 2 full-time paramedics to the staff in January 2006 to help with the additional requests for medical treatment and transport by the residents of our communities.
In 2012, MRTSA began to upgrade its fleet from Type III to Type I Ford F-450 Lifeline medic units. The new trucks feature a high vis digital design pattern, four wheel drive and cutting edge technology.
MRTSA has experienced many changes over the years, however, our commitment to providing excellent patient care and serving our communities will always remain at the forefront.