Ahhh, New Jersey

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This article popped up via an EMS news server to which I subscribe.

N.J. lawmakers vote to put Cooper in charge of Camden EMS

TRENTON – New Jersey lawmakers Thursday overwhelmingly approved legislation
that would give Cooper University Hospital control over emergency medical
services in Camden.

It passed without debate on the floor of either house of the Legislature
despite vociferous opposition from the current provider of paramedic
services in Camden, Virtua Health System, which operates in every town in
Burlington and Camden Counties.

The bill now heads to Gov. Christie’s desk and seems likely to be signed
into law, given that he has worked with Cooper’s chairman, George E.
Norcross III, on many initiatives in the city.

I don’t know a whole lot about New Jersey politics. In fact, the only politician I could name from The Garden State is Christie. Of whom I don’t have a particularly positive opinion. None of that has to do with this particular issue and for the record I think “Bridgegate” is and was a load of Democrat horse manure. It does have with his anti Second Amendment and soft on Islamic extremism views, but that’s a different story.

As I said, I don’t know much about New Jersey politics, but where I’m from this is generally called a “Bag Job”. Which means that the fix was in from the beginning. This will was brought up for consideration at the end of the legislative session, pushed through without debate and is being fast tracked for passage by the Governor. This will benefit Cooper University Hospital in more ways that the article details. More on that in a bit.

In addition to taking over paramedic services, the bill would enable Cooper
to provide basic life services in Camden, which are currently provided by
Newark-based University Hospital, which is state-owned. According to Cooper,
University Hospital’s Camden operation costs taxpayers $1 million annually.

The Legislature also passed a budget that includes $2.5 million for Cooper,
which the hospital plans to use for start-up costs like replacing old
ambulances, and $2.5 million for the City of Newark to establish its own EMS
operation.

Two points here. Not only is the legislature giving an exclusive franchise to Cooper, it’s paying Cooper’s start up costs with taxpayer money. Second, it’s displacing two agencies with experience in providing EMS with one that apparently has no experience in EMS.

Lawmakers who voted against the bill cited similar reasons for opposing it.
Virtua obtained the license to operate in Camden 38 years ago through a
regulatory process known as the certificate of need program.

In this process, the Department of Health declares a need for a service,
accepts applications for a vote before the state health planning board, and
makes a recommendation to the department’s commissioner, who renders the
final decision.

Another key feature of a “Bag Job” is doing and end run around the already established procedure for establishing who provides ALS in New Jersey.

I reached out to a friend of mine who is very familiar with EMS in New Jersey and here are his comments.

0 steps forward for EMS in NJ. 5 steps back. The bill begins the dismantlement of a DOH run, statewide, CN based, regionally adminstered system that has worked for 40+ years based on the ego of Norcross, who happens to be on the board of directors at Cooper and the So. Jersey Democrat power broker. He and Christie, though in opposite parties, are butt buddies IMHO. The whole think is politics, not patient care or operational logic.

The impact of this bill isn’t Camden. You’re taking one small and distraught city out of a regional ALS system (Virtua). That is only one, maybe two units. Big deal.Inner city payer mix sucks so Virtua’s balance sheet improves over night. Unintended winners could be the paramedics, who can now work for both systems insteadof having to drive 30-60 miles to the another MICU project for a part time job.

The scary impact of the bill is the secondary portion/rider of the bill that says if a level 1 trauma system has a member hospital in another municipality,they will receive “expedited” consideration to offer/take over ALS services in that municipality. That immediately puts a large town, Hamilton Twp, with a great payer mix,on the radar for it’s L1 – Robert Wood Johnson MC in New Brunswick. That pulls a town with great payer mix out of a system (Trenton/Capital Health) that continues to support a city(Trenton) with lousy payer mix.

This all begins to dismantle a very good, stable, statewide, regionally based ALS system.

Nothing good happens when politicians stick their noses into EMS in an effort to “help”. Remember, it’s only help if it actually, you know, helps. I have no doubt that if Christie tried to do this without help from a powerful Democrat, the media would be all over this story and the US Attorney for New Jersey would be opening an investigation. That won’t happen now unless the media can separate Christie from Norcross. Which might take a crow bar.

Just politics as usual in a blue state, I guess.

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After a long career as a field EMS provider, I'm now doing all that back office stuff I used to laugh at. Life is full of ironies, isn't it? I still live in the Northeast corner of the United States, although I hope to change that to another part of the country more in tune with my values and beliefs. I still write about EMS, but I'm adding more and more non EMS subject matter. Thanks for visiting.

2 COMMENTS

    • As always. Also, I was under the impression that Norcross was an elected official. He’s not, he’s on insurance commission, but apparently is a major Democrat power broker in New Jersey. The money trail will likely lead to Christie’s campaign coffers.

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