Almost a year ago, I wrote a post about NJ State Bill S-818 which was set to change the landscape of EMS in New Jersey.  In the year since that article was written, the bill and a second one also making its way through the New Jersey legislature have been revised, but the opposition has remained.

I got my start in EMS at the Jersey Shore on a small volunteer first aid squad.  We ran, on average, around 400 calls a year, pretty busy for a town of our size.  Often times, it was not uncommon to have two or three, or sometimes even four EMTs standing in your living room in my town ready to render you emergency care.  The communities around us were no different than we were.  We all took pride in what we did, and knew that we could deliver better service than any paid provider who came into the area because we held ourselves to a very high, very professional standard.

To this day, I am still proud of my accomplishments as a volunteer.  I was an active member of two excellent services, and the staff of those services taught me to be the caring, compassionate, knowledgeable provider that I am today.  My roots in New Jersey run deep, and I have been very troubled by what I have been reading lately.

As time has progressed, and the political and economic climate in this country has changed, volunteer EMS has taken a turn, and is not as prominent as it was even ten years ago.  Families are working harder to support themselves, and the call volume and expectations of care have grown and evolved.  Some might say that these factors spell the end of volunteer EMS, and I hope every day that it isn’t the case.  It’s not the time to expect less from our volunteers; it’s time to expect more for our patients.

Sadly though, the New Jersey State First Aid Council seems content with the past.  Their staunch opposition to Bill S-818 has taken the focus off of where it needs to be: the patient and put their stress on what EMS is about on the provider.  The argument of “you should want us to do the job because we do it from the kindness of our hearts” just doesn’t really fly for me anymore.  There are people’s lives at stake, and they deserve the best.

I took some time today and checked out a few websites, the first, of course, being the most recent revisions to the two bills relating to EMS in New Jersey: S-818 and A-2095.  As I stated in my previous blog, this bill is a direct result of the study done in 2007 which showed many of the flaws in the New Jersey statewide EMS system, and made suggestions on how to fix it.  Over the course of the last year, this bill has undergone many changes in an attempt to please its opposition and get it passed.  Some of these revisions are good, such as the requirement of background checks for prospective EMTs, and some of them, well; they’re not so good, like the reduction of minimum ambulance staff to “at least one Emergency Medical Technician.”  That’s right, an ambulance with an EMT, and a driver.

My focus then turned to the State First Aid Council’s website, and their interpretation and opposition of the bill.  Certain arguments seem a bit strange to me.  They seem more concerned to maintain the status quo, and are content with regressing to BLS care that was provided twenty years ago, instead of progressing forward, and expecting the best out of their EMTs.

A governing body, statewide standards for patient care, medical oversight in the form of a medical director for each and every service in the state, technology to help dispatchers make sure the closest unit is being dispatched to an emergency, and background checks for EMTs.  I fail to understand how any of these would do anything except for improve patient care and make sure that we have the best possible EMTs on the streets.  The only argument that the NJSFAC seems to keep putting out there is “unfunded costs” and concerns about money for volunteer services.

How about it, New Jersey?  What is truly important?  As I perused the State First Aid Council’s position statement on S-818, I noticed something interesting: the word “patient” is mentioned three times in the entire document.  Each instance of the word has to do with the rationale behind having one EMT instead of two caring for a patient.  There is no mention of putting the patient first, or any documentation on how the State First Aid Council’s oppositional statements would improve the care provided to the sick and injured of New Jersey.  As a matter of fact, the phrase “patient care” appears only once in the entire document:

. . . we recommend that at a minimum, a volunteer crew consist of 1 EMT who will be responsible for patient care and 1 certified driver.”

That’s it.  They recommend less trained providers care of the sick and injured of New Jersey.  The intentions of these bills are to improve EMS in the State of New Jersey.  How exactly does having less trained responders improve patient care?  Their intentions are made clear though, they are concerned about a potential decline in the number of volunteers state wide.  That’s the PC way of saying “we are putting the providers before the patients” and that really upsets me.  Instead of going out in search of high quality EMTs and providers to serve in their systems, the NJSFAC is content with saying that they can do the same job they did ten years ago with less man power, and less training.  Translation: they are moving backwards.

The time is now to raise standards and demand more out of the potential care that could be provided and bring New Jersey’s EMS system more in line with other systems around the country.  I’m shocked that more volunteers are not coming out in support of these bills.  Part of being in EMS is having a degree of passion that enhances one’s selflessness.  Doing this job out of the kindness of your heart requires that.  It requires a person to put the needs of themselves and sometimes their family aside for someone who might be a complete stranger.  It’s supposed to be about the patients.

When my loved ones are in their time of need, I want the best possible providers to be there caring for them.  Great patient goes beyond the patch on someone’s shoulder; it has more to do with the person that is providing the care.  That person might collect a pay check for what they do, or they might just be doing it out of the kindness of their heart, but in order for that person to be capable of doing that job, they need standards, they need regulation, and they need medical direction.

Do you agree with me?  Let me know!  Do you disagree?  That’s fine too, I want to hear why.  Please share your comments below.

Websites related to NJ Bills S-818 and A-2095:

Finally, show your support for NJ Bills S-818 and A-2095.  Put the patients first: