Freeholders Advance EMS Regionalization Initiative
(Woodbury, NJ) Gloucester County Freeholder Director Stephen M. Sweeney and Freeholder Helene Reed announced today that regionalizing Emergency Medical Services (EMS) within the county will be offered to municipalities as an efficient and effective way to improve this essential, life-saving medical service. Regionalization has been recommended as the best answer to improving Gloucester Countys emergency medical services.
After receiving concerns from many mayors, council members and emergency workers about the current state of EMS in Gloucester County, the Board of Chosen Freeholders formed an exploratory committee last summer to examine the feasibility of regionalization. The exploratory committee is comprised of representatives from the Gloucester County Mayors Association, emergency medicine professionals, EMS volunteers and providers. Recently the exploratory committee has completed its work and has found an immediate need for enhancement of EMS in many areas of our county.
Right now we have a system with a mixture of volunteers, paid career, and private agencies. These EMS professionals provide vital, life saving services to our community. Unfortunately, many of these squads are struggling to respond to emergency calls, particularly during weekdays. The reality is the current piecemeal system too often doesnt meet our residents needs for a reliable and timely EMS response. Regionalization will address this problem with around-the clock staffing, said Freeholder Director Stephen Sweeney.
One of the major findings of the exploratory committee was that in many areas the current system falters in responding to emergency calls. The responsiveness of the system is measured by non-responses. A non-response is when a squad is contacted for an emergency and the squad does not respond to the call. Whenever this occurs, the next nearest squad by mutual aid is called. Sometimes several squads have to be called before the emergency is responded to. This process uses valuable time. For many medical emergencies, time is a valuable resource and can be the difference between life and death.
Just recently Logan, Swedesboro, Woolwich and East Greenwich have regionalized their EMS in order to create a more reliable system. This regionalization effort has been extremely successful. The Board of Chosen Freeholders is proposing a carefully worked-out shared services approach to establish a similarly reliable system countywide, Sweeney said.
It is important to understand that the reliability of the system varies according to where you are and what time of day it is during your medical emergency. Gloucester County residents deserve consistent, dependable EMS. In cooperation with municipalities, we can and should do better, explains Helene Reed, Freeholder Liaison to Gloucester County Office of Emergency Response.
As a first step toward regionalization, the County is offering each municipality the opportunity to join. For those that wish to participate, a letter of intent is being requested.
Through a voluntary partnership with municipalities, the County intends to lease existing ambulances and stations and offset an estimated 50 to 65% of the operating cost through medical insurance billing. Our regionalization initiative is also being supported in part by a $300,000 grant from the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs, said Freeholder Joseph Brigandi, Jr.
County residents will not be billed for services; however, the County will bill patients insurance wherever applicable in order to offset costs as much as possible. County EMS will provide services to patients regardless of whether or not the individual has health insurance.
Our volunteers have struggled for many years to meet the medical emergency needs of our residents and we are grateful for their many years of service and sacrifice. We hope volunteers will continue to play an important role in providing this critical service. In partnership with municipalities, the time has come for Gloucester County to take the lead in enhancing this vital, life saving service, said Director Sweeney.
The first phase of County EMS is slated for September 30th, 2007.