To the Editor:
What better way to mark national Emergency Medical Services Week (May 19-25) than to thank Governor Christie for his veto of S1650/A2463, the so-called EMS Redesign Bill! Twice in 16 months, Christie rejected an ill-conceived attempt to push out New Jersey’s EMS volunteers and replace them with a system of paid providers that would have cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars. Nowhere did the bills outline how they would improve patient care.
These past few years have been difficult for New Jersey’s volunteer EMS community. A 2007 report falsely predicted imminent collapse of NJ’s EMS system, which triggered hysterical calls for immediate statewide EMS reform. We EMS volunteers have endured numerous financial and legislative hurdles, scare tactics meant to panic the public, blatantly false propaganda intended to besmirch the character of EMS volunteers, and decreasing volunteer rolls worsened by the tough economy. There was no system collapse, and despite all the anti-volunteer schemes, we’re still here.
The New Jersey State First Aid Council (NJSFAC) has always supported changes to the EMS system that lead to better patient care. In both vetoed bills, we objected to those portions that would have increased costs, bureaucracy and red tape, and ultimately pushed out the volunteers without improving patient care.
The 83-year-old nonprofit NJSFAC represents more than 20,000 EMS volunteers affiliated with 300+ volunteer first aid and rescue squads throughout the state. In 2012, our members spent more than 5 million hours providing their towns with EMS service and answering more than 355,000 calls, saving New Jerseyans – and their insurance companies – more than $227 million.
We’d hoped the efforts our volunteers put forth before, during and after Super Storm Sandy would remind the bill’s backers how fortunate New Jersey is to have such a large, well-established, dedicated volunteer EMS community, and help soften their stance on this detrimental legislation, but to no avail. One question to the naysayers: When did “volunteer” become a bad word?