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EMS System overhaul debated in Trenton

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http://www.app.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2012310100030&nclick_check=1

Asbury Park Times

In communities like Berkeley Township, where 26,000 senior citizens live, residents rely on volunteer first-aiders to get them to the hospitals in emergencies.

But what if they suddenly were charged $2,000 for every trip?

That’s what some volunteers fear may happen. They say that a new bill designed to regulate emergency services could result in them being squeezed out by paid paramedics — and they say a free service that residents rely on could now cost them money.

“Paid service companies want to come in because it’s a cash cow in the senior communities,” Berkeley Township Councilwoman Judy Noonan said. “Anybody who believes differently is kidding themselves.”

But supporters say that a paid EMS system is necessary in order to make sure that no emergency call goes unanswered due to a lack of volunteers.

“What it does is upgrades the system,” said Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester, one of the sponsors of the bill. “Volunteers are great. In my county, they are wonderful. But facts are facts: Too many calls go unanswered. There are just not enough of the volunteers anymore.”

The controversial bill is touted by Sweeney and other lawmakers in Trenton as a statewide EMS redesign. It would govern the qualifications, training, and operations of paramedics, emergency medical technicians and emergency medical responders, as well as first aiders.

And volunteer first-aiders say the new training and other requirements will shrink their ranks, leaving paid paramedics as the only choice for some communities.

Unlike volunteer first aiders, paramedics are a paid service. The average charge for paramedic service in New Jersey at the beginning of 2005 was about $2,000, according to the website for MONOC (Monmouth Ocean Hospital Service Corp.), a nonprofit company comprised of state acute-care hospitals). The amount covered by commercial insurance companies varies.

Bills from services for a paid rig could mean “thousands of dollars” in charges for patients, said Joseph R. Busse, captain of the Silver Ridge Park First Aid Squad in Berkeley. The Silver Ridge, Holiday City and Holiday Heights first aid squads handle more than 7,000 calls annually in the township.

Busse, 73, said he and other volunteers are trained to handle any emergency, adding, “There is no charge.”

But he fears that the new law would place new “unreasonable requirements” on volunteers and cater to professional crews.

There are other potential costs from the legislation. The nonpartisan Office of Legislative Services says there will be a “probable increase in administrative and training costs to state and local entities,’’ but the office could not make an estimate.

The bill also creates the position of State Medical Director for Emergency Medical Services and authorizes the appointment of up to three regional medical directors, all of whom would be salaried. Salary and fringe benefit costs for the four positions would total approximately $600,000 per year.

Carl Lazzaro, the mayor of Fredon in Sussex County, who is captain of his town’s emergency services squad, said the bill will transform duties handled by local volunteers into new government jobs.

“This is all about money. This is about unions. This is all about everybody getting onto the state rolls and the state pension and medical plans,” he said.

Lazzaro’s prediction: “Those costs are going to be passed on to the municipalities (and through) property taxes. But we’re tapped out.”

Proponents say the intent is to provide timely and qualified emergency services.

Sweeney said volunteer squads in many parts of the state have been fighting a losing battle to sign up new members. In Sweeney’s home county, Gloucester, he said unanswered 911 calls topped 800 in one year before a countywide EMS system was implemented.

Michael Bascom, finance officer and tax collector for Neptune and Monmouth County’s EMS coordinator, said currently thriving volunteer squads will have little problem adjusting.

“I don’t see that changing so long as volunteers can provide the service. In areas where volunteers can’t provide the service, the first selection is not going to be to find a career agency and bring that cost into the budget. It’s going to be to work toward regionalizing volunteer services,” Bascom said.

Assemblyman Anthony M. Bucco, R-Morris, in a statement, said the current measure “is essentially a redo of the one passed in the Legislature’s previous session.”

“The governor indicated the bill could potentially cost the state and municipalities millions of dollars,” Bucco said. “He advised the Legislature that further study was warranted and that the bill’s impact on property taxes, volunteerism, background checks, licensure versus certification and fiscal impact to the state budget should be studied.”

Sweeney said the Senate will hold its vote Oct. 25.

Once again, sorry volunteers. I’m probably going to hurt your feelings. You have your place, believe me. But in this day and age, unless it’s a VERY small community, people expect the best service possible.

Let’s take this bit by bit, shall we?

“Paid service companies want to come in because it’s a cash cow in the senior communities,” Berkeley Township Councilwoman Judy Noonan said. “Anybody who believes differently is kidding themselves.”

Seriously?? A cash cow??? You can barely make ends meet with Medicare/Medicaid reimbursements. I wouldn’t want a senior community. I would want people with private insurance that pays more. No one wants senior communities.

The controversial bill is touted by Sweeney and other lawmakers in Trenton as a statewide EMS redesign. It would govern the qualifications, training, and operations of paramedics, emergency medical technicians and emergency medical responders, as well as first aiders.

So basically the bill ensures that everyone, no matter what town you live in, what taxes are paid, what population exists, etc., you’ll all have access to the same level of care. What is so wrong with this?

And volunteer first-aiders say the new training and other requirements will shrink their ranks, leaving paid paramedics as the only choice for some communities.

Oh, darn.

Bills from services for a paid rig could mean “thousands of dollars” in charges for patients, said Joseph R. Busse, captain of the Silver Ridge Park First Aid Squad in Berkeley. The Silver Ridge, Holiday City and Holiday Heights first aid squads handle more than 7,000 calls annually in the township.

Captain Dumbass, are you aware that since the township hands you $25k a year ALL residents already pay for the service whether they use it or not???

Busse, 73, said he and other volunteers are trained to handle any emergency, adding, “There is no charge.”

Busse, 73. Doesn’t that just sum it up right there? When I’m 73, I’ll be damned if I’m going to attempt to be doing CPR and extrication.

But he fears that the new law would place new “unreasonable requirements” on volunteers and cater to professional crews.

It is not unreasonable for someone to get the same level of care and professionalism no matter where they are at within the state. I expect to call 911 and get two certified EMT’s who are NOT wearing pajamas and reeking of stale beer. I expect to not have a 73 year old show up and look like he’s gonna code whilst carrying me down a flight of stairs.

Carl Lazzaro, the mayor of Fredon in Sussex County, who is captain of his town’s emergency services squad, said the bill will transform duties handled by local volunteers into new government jobs.

What the hell are you talking about? If anything, they’d be privately owned and not municipal based. Most municipalities have gotten out of public service (save for police) because they realize it is NOT the cash cow you seem to think it is. Furthermore, the paramedics don't want anything to do with it. It would most likely still be EMT's.

“This is all about money. This is about unions. This is all about everybody getting onto the state rolls and the state pension and medical plans,” he said.

Sir, are you retarded? It still requires paramedics to be hospital based, therefore, they’d still be employed by the hospital and NOT the state. What money are you talking about??? Have you not been paying attention to the fact that no one is getting paid anymore with all the cut backs?

Lazzaro’s prediction: “Those costs are going to be passed on to the municipalities (and through) property taxes. But we’re tapped out.”

IT’S ALREADY PART OF YOUR PROPERTY TAX WHETHER YOU USE IT OR NOT!!!

Edited by scratrat

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Speaking for my geographic location. And being educated in the matter.. We could get tax funding.. Which would be about $12/taxable property/year. Can't have both, either taxes or billing for services; have to choose one.That would be an income of about $4200.. Annually. Or.. we can bill each and every ambulance call, and make about $88,000.00 annually. Hrmmmm... I think the tax payers can keep their twelve dollars.

Though, I don't agree with the stereotype that every volunteer service and every volunteer are poorly educated, lack skills and don't cut it. I feel the same way about most *new EMS providers, whether they're volunteer or paid. Mostly the paid ones, I say paid, because to a lot of the noobs it isn't a career.. It's just another job, that they have no intention of putting their heart into. Especially if their chief job description is to drive the ambulance.

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