The Hopatcong Ambulance Squad has been in operation for 75 years. Never in our history would we have even thought a worldwide pandemic would have such an impact on EMS. Every day from the beginning of COVID ambulance crews all over the state were out taking care of communities around the state without missing a beat even while lacking the ability to get supplies to keep them safe. EMTs on the front lines tragically lost their lives due to
Now we are asking for your help supporting the ambulance squads that were there YOU and your loved ones during COVID. Because we bill for services (which means our costs do not come out of your taxes) we follow NJDOH guidelines and are required to have 2 EMTs on each 9-1-1 call. Squads that do not bill for services follow the NJ First Aid Council guidelines which require a minimum of 1 EMT and 1 First Responder. Keep in mind in a crew of 2 someone must drive the ambulance and provides no patient care during a transport to a hospital. It is important to understand the history below to understand what we are asking for and how it will impact YOU.
Since 2010, when Hopatcong Ambulance Squad became a “licensed” agency, we have been following the 2 EMT rule. When COVID started every EMS agency across the state and country was impacted and to this day is still suffering from a severe shortage of EMTs. EMTs normally start off as First Responders with volunteer squads. First responders are the entry level position in EMS and the ambulance squads groom and train them so they can successfully attend and complete the EMT certification program. As EMTs gain experience, usually after 2 years, they become the recruiting pool for the hospital networks and larger EMS agencies, so ambulance squads are in a constant need of backfilling First Responders/EMTs. For the last 2 years very few people raised their hands to come out and volunteer in fear of COVID exposure.
During COVID, hospital networks relied heavily on many of the EMTs that also volunteered or were part time employees of the community based squads as they were also short staffed. 70% of our EMTs work for other EMS agencies or dispatch centers. With EMT shortages continuing some of those EMTs were unable to return to the community ambulance squads due to their full time job demands. Some EMTs also left the EMS industry after being burnt out. By now the picture should be pretty clear of why EMT resources are in short supply.
When Governor Murphy initially declared the state of emergency with COVID, the NJ Department of Health put in place a waiver to allow the “licensed” agencies like ourselves to operate with 1 EMT and 1 First Responder. We appreciated the decision and used that waiver sparingly throughout the pandemic to be able to keep ambulance crews readily available during times where we had limited resources. With the pandemic subsiding and the state of emergency ending the state legislature introduced A6073(see the link). This bill would have extended the 1 EMT and 1 First Responder until January 2023. However, when the bill went to committee it was amended and the original intention of the bill lost by a paragraph “D” being added that put back the 2 EMT mandate for 9-1-1 based calls. Most ambulance squads only respond to 9-1-1 calls, so this addition of this paragraph has caused additional hardship for ambulance squads short staffed. With this bill being signed into law it ties the hands of ambulance squads to be able to respond without 2 EMTs. This will prevent YOU and your loved ones from getting emergency medical care when you need it most. It will also put a burden on surrounding ambulance squads and hospital networks and take them away from their coverage areas to respond to your community. This will add additional response time since the ambulance will not be coming from within your community. Many emergencies we respond to such as a stroke, cardiac arrest, respiratory distress, or anaphylaxis are time critical. What will happen when an ambulance is not readily available?
Senator Oroho, Assemblyman Space, Assemblyman Withs, and Hopatcong Councilwoman Jennifer Johnson from our area have been very supportive and had requested a temporary waiver for 1 EMT and 1 First Responder be granted for ambulance squads across the state in the same situation. The NJ Department of Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli denied this request without understanding how YOU will be impacted. There is also a misunderstanding on EMS statistics in our area that contradict a drop in 9-1-1 calls post COVID. During COVID fewer people called 9-1-1 in fear of COVID exposure. Our call volume has steadily increased for other reasons as COVID cases have reduced.
What can you do? We need everyone to reach out to the NJ Legislature, the NJ Department of Health, the Governor’s Office, and the media to demand paragraph “D” be immediately repealed from A6073 or new legislation introduced to allow ambulance squads to continue to respond to YOU in an emergency. Again, the 2 EMT mandate has no merit when 1 needs to be driving the ambulance. This issue impacts ambulance squads all over the state not just Hopatcong. What will you do when the ambulance doesn’t come?
Reach out to your Mayor and Council and request that they provide support for repealing the paragraph D from A6073 or support enacting new legislation
You can use the NJ Legislature Email Addresses document below to send an email. You can use the text below as a sample for your email.
Bill A6073 is putting residents of NJ in jeopardy of not being able to receive timely emergency care due to the crew restrictions of paragraph D. This bill's original intent of helping ambulance squads re-staff after 2 years of COVID was lost by adding this paragraph. Your immediate action is needed to repeal paragraph D from A6073 or create new legislation to address the EMT staffing shortages across NJ.
What will you do when an ambulance cannot respond to an emergency impacting you or a loved one?
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Contact the Governor via the state web page and can use the text below as a sample
Dear Governor Murphy:
Bill A6073 which you signed into law is putting residents of NJ in jeopardy of not being able to receive timely emergency care due to the crew restrictions of paragraph D. This bill's original intent of helping ambulance squads re-staff after 2 years of COVID was lost by adding this paragraph. Your immediate action is needed to partner with the Senators and Assemblymen to repeal paragraph D from A6073 or create new legislation to address the EMT staffing shortages across NJ. What will you do when an ambulance cannot respond to an emergency impacting you or a loved one?
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You can reach out to the NJ Department of Health at this email address: email@example.com
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