Drexel’s College of Nursing and Health Professions will cease operations of its EMS Training Center by June 30. The decision, made in February, was largely due to financial issues in the aftermath of the Hahnemann hospital closure and COVID-19. Now that the Department of Emergency Medical Services’ Training Center (EMSTC) at Drexel is closing operations, Philadelphia will now have only one operational EMS training center.
The department offered a number of services to interested participants, including EMR and EMT training, CPR courses through the American Heart Association, and trauma education courses. Jamie M. Teufel, who is the current EMS Program Director, rebuilt the EMS program that Drexel had first closed in 2008.
In 2013, the College of Medicine at Drexel asked Teufel to redevelop the remnants of the EMS training program that taught EMT and paramedics. By 2015, programs were up and running. The College of Medicine closed the Department of Emergency Medicine in 2019, which is when the College of Nursing took over the department again.
Since 2015, the department has had over 500 students go through their program, with 80 EMT students currently enrolled.
“After COVID hit and because of the Hahnemann hospital closure, we ran into some difficulty as far as finding clinical locations for our students and also had some problems,” Teufel said. “We were off campus for four months, we couldn’t hold any classes for four months because of COVID so that made things much more difficult for us, financially.”
When the College of Nursing and Health Professions finance team looked at the program’s projected finances for the upcoming fiscal school year 2021-2022, they made the decision to cease operations.
“In February, we were given the directive to close our program, finish our current students, and that we were all terminated as of June 30,” explained Teufel. “We currently have 80 EMT students enrolled, so we are finishing the 80 EMT students that are currently enrolled.”
Since March 1, the department has been slowly ramping down its services as all staff will be laid off as of June 30.
Teufel expressed that the department’s main concern right now is to make sure that students are getting their educational needs met and that they get through courses quickly and efficiently. At the same time, students have generally expressed their discontent with the decision.
“I can tell you that students have displayed sadness and displeasure with the decision. They have verbalized that and demonstrated that numerous times,” Teufel said. They have asked us what they can do and our wish to them is that they simply finish the course and be successful.”
An op-ed published in the Inquirer recently expressed frustration with the decision to close the center down. Among her concerns about the situation, EMS educator Amanda Rock cited that the Drexel EMS center closing will mean that the number of newly certified EMTs in Philadelphia will be cut in half.
“The lack of EMS providers in the Philadelphia area is not a new problem,” Rock said. “But between COVID-19 and Drexel’s disheartening decision to close its highly regarded EMS Training Center, it is slated to become a dire public health emergency that cannot continue to be ignored.”
The future of the EMS program is uncertain, as of now. As the department closes, the American Heart Association Center will be moving over to a different entity within the Nursing college, but the EMS training center and the Trauma education department will either be closed or transferred over to other entities.
“I wish Drexel was able to maintain this program,” Teufel said. “I think we did a lot of good with this program, but unfortunately, the financial situation that Drexel is in right now laid the groundwork for this to be closed down.”
The university affirmed that the program’s closure had to do with financial issues, but also expressed their intent to find a way to continue the program in some capacity.
“The bankruptcy and closure of Hahnemann University Hospital, and a number of external factors negatively impacted the EMS Training Center, and, despite the best efforts to maintain operations, a decision was made by the College of Nursing and Health Professions to close the Center,” Niki Gianakaris, Executive Director of Media Relations, said. “However, Drexel is currently looking into ways to keep the program running.”