To the Editor:
On 9/11, New Jersey volunteer EMS squads dispatched more than 400 ambulances to New York City and North Jersey, all while continuing to staff ambulances and answer calls in their own communities. In the months following, volunteer EMS squads throughout the state noted generous donations, and increased support, respect and acknowledgment for their daily efforts.
Less than a decade later, much appears changed for New Jersey’s EMS volunteers, and not for the better. For example:
1) Former Gov. Jon Corzine took $4 million from the EMT Training Fund to help offset a budget shortfall. The fund now pays only part of the volunteer EMT’s educational requirements. Sources of reimbursable continuing education units (CEUs) also are scaled back. With few exceptions, the fund no longer reimburses elective CEUs, and renewing EMTs are reimbursed only if money remains after training for first-time EMTs is covered. That leaves some individuals paying to maintain their EMT certification and volunteer status.
2) Early this year, Mt. Olive’s mayor unsuccessfully waged a months-long campaign to replace the area’s long-serving EMS volunteers with paid EMTs.
3) Bills S818-A2095 in the New Jersey Legislature propose a major overhaul of the EMS system, which, if approved in their current forms, could result in a significant decrease in the number of volunteer squads, and dramatic cost increases for patients, communities and taxpayers.
Hopefully it won’t take another mass casualty incident for New Jersey to realize the gems it has in its EMS volunteers.
For information on becoming an EMS volunteer, visit www.njsfac.org or call (800) 390-8991.
Little Silver, NJ
Barbara Aras is president, New Jersey State First Aid Council, which represents more than 20,000 EMS volunteers statewide.