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(TRENTON) – The Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee met on Thursday to discuss legislation the quality and delivery of emergency medical services in New Jersey.
The bill (A-2095) sponsored by Committee Chairman Herb Conaway, M.D., Angel Fuentes, Elease Evans and Joan Quigley was listed for discussion to gain insight on the proposed changes from various stakeholders.
Among those that testified today were representatives from the New Jersey Chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians, the New Jersey Hospital Association, the New Jersey Council of Teaching Hospitals, the Monmouth-Ocean Hospital Service Corporation, the New Jersey Association of Paramedic Programs and the Health Care Quality Institute
“Emergency medical services are among the most fundamental functions we can provide as a government,” said Conaway (D-Burlington/Camden). “If we are going to overhaul our system, it’s important that we do it right. Today was an important first step in gaining crucial feedback from those who are directly involved in providing critical emergency services.”
According to a 2007 report that was issued after a comprehensive analysis was conducted at the behest of the Legislature, New Jersey’s two-tiered EMS system is in a “state of near crisis” due to the system’s financial structure, decline in volunteer membership, lack of comprehensive legislation and a weakened Advanced Life Support (ALS) system. The bill (A-2095) incorporates many of the recommendations from the report.
“This legislation would institute various measures that will revolutionize services, making them more efficient and effective, while streamlining the system to save taxpayer dollars,” said Fuentes (D-Camden/Gloucester).
Under the direction of the Commissioner of Health and Senior Services, the Office of Emergency Medical Services in the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) would serve as the lead state agency in overseeing emergency medical services to ensure the continuous and timely availability and dispatch of basic and advanced life support through ground and air, adult and pediatric triage, treatment and transport and emergency response capabilities.
Among the bill’s chief components is a provision that would grant municipalities official authority over EMS in their jurisdiction, as is customary now for police and fire services.
In doing so, the bill would require a minimum of two emergency medical technicians (EMTs) as the standard of care for every ambulance in the state. Each municipality would also have two years to arrange for the provision of basic life support services in response to 9-1-1 calls prior to hospital care.
DHSS would also be responsible for arranging advanced life support services in response to 9-1-1 calls statewide.
“This is an important measure because it provides a uniform standard for responding to emergencies and treating and transporting patients. The ultimate goal is to ensure proper care for all of our residents,” said Evans (D-Passaic/Bergen).
The bill also creates a more inclusive EMS Training Fund to train all providers to meet their certification requirements in order to ensure that all emergency services personnel receive the best education.
“In order to deliver the very finest in care, our emergency personnel deserve the very finest in education,” said Quigley (D-Hudson/Bergen).
The bill would also require paramedics, EMTs, and emergency medical responders to obtain a license from DHSS and undergo a criminal history background check as a condition of licensure or other authorization to practice.
The commissioner would also have the authority to revoke the license for violation of certain laws and regulations.
The bill would also consolidate numerous groups, task forces and advisory boards, into one governing body – Emergency Medical Care Advisory Board (EMCAB) – to advise DHSS on pre-hospital issues, medical care and the establishment of provider standards.
The panel also considered legislation (A-1993) sponsored by Conaway that would establish procedures for the operation of air ambulance services.