Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Rescue Squad In Danger

The closing of Muhlenberg Regional Medical Center has put such stress on the Plainfield Rescue Squad that its future is in doubt, longtime member Jenny Pernell told the City Council Monday.

“We are dying,” she said. “We need help.”

The closing has resulted in city residents having to be transported to out-of-town hospitals, tying up the squad’s ambulance and causing “stacking” of response to emergency calls, she said.

“We feel we are not providing appropriate service to patients,” Pernell said.

Although conditions put on the closing by state Health Commissioner Heather Howard included provision of another ambulance, so far nothing has happened, Pernell said.
The city is also trying to get Muhlenberg’s parent company, Solaris Health Systems, to provide an ambulance, officials said Monday, but Corporation Counsel Dan Williamson said “Quite frankly, we haven’t got a lot of cooperation from Solaris lately.”

The squad answers about 6,000 calls a year, but Pernell said some of them are affected by the same problem that plagued Muhlenberg, people unable to pay for services. The squad has a flat rate of $650 per ambulance trip, but Medicare only pays $58 per patient, she said. Another issue is response to intoxicated individuals who can’t pay and who are rejected by some neighboring towns’ mutual aid agreements.

The city formerly provided gasoline for the squad’s ambulances as well as an annual donation, but stopped after the squad began billing patients. Currently the squad is half paid and half volunteer, Pernell said, suggesting the city could help out with fuel costs, grant-writing and a direct contribution ranging from $50,000 to $100,000.

Council members acknowledged hearing about the problems caused by Muhlenberg’s closing, but called for more documentation and statistics on the effect on patients in order to bolster the case for city or state assistance. Councilwoman Annie McWilliams noted it has been six months since Howard approved the closing and said she wants to know which conditions have been met and which have not been met.

The council will take up the questions at its next executive session, City Council President Rashid Burney said.

--Bernice Paglia


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is Plainfield the only city with these issues? Can we not learn something from Newark or Elizabeth? Quite frankly, I would pass on the intoxication pick ups. Instead of taking them to the hospital, take them to Westfield. Bet something would be done - and for the better.

4:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Seems as if there is money in the till for entertainment - street music and such...couldn't the money be approriated for an ambulance instead?
even a used vehicle would be better than nothing.
The mayor needs to get JFK to pitch in, since emergency patients will be funneled there if admitted.

8:01 PM  
Anonymous joanna cassidy said...

take them 2 westfield is no solution,now is it? what i dont understand is,why does it cost $650 to transport 1 patient? to a area hospital? someone enlighten me.what am i missing?

8:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Think outside the box.....dont rely on traditional talking to the community to get help/sympathy. Look into options that haven't been pursued in the area. Improvise, adapt and overcome.

9:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It costs $650 for a transport to an area hospital for several reasons:

1) The ambulance
2) staff the ambulance with 2 state certified EMTs
3) recieve a basic patient assessment from said EMTs
4) any treatment you may receive: oxygen, splinting, bleeding control, carrying down 4 flights of stairs...etc
5) milage to the hospital (which you can bill per mile)

In the end...the vast majority of people pay very little if anything for an ambulance ride and still insist on feeling entitled to call 911 for their 10 day old tooth ache. People need to take responsibility for themselves. 911 is not a taxi!!!

11:12 PM  

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