by Marcelo Adinofi, MICP, EMT-B(I), Executive Director and COO of the Linden Emergency Medical Service
In light of the recent events surrounding the layoffs of seven firemen, I feel compelled to point out a few details that seem to be omitted from most publications regarding this heated issue in our community.
Linden Emergency Medical Services is a full-time, professional ambulance service with a record of service to the residents and visitors of the City of Linden going back over 60 years. From our beginnings as a volunteer department in the 1940’s, we transitioned to a professional organization beginning in1998, due to the changing environment of pre-hospital emergency medicine and the growing need of the City of Linden. Today, we are a group of over 40 emergency service personnel providing 24-hour ambulance service to our community.
Despite our level of professionalism, our organization has operated in Linden without a formalized agreement or contract; most likely due to the City’s lack of factual information about our organization. Last April, in my capacity as Executive Director of Linden EMS, I sent a letter to the Mayor and City Council detailing our operational structure and seeking to formalize our working relationship. I did this to better serve our staff and volunteers, but not as a part of any initiative to expand our scope of service. It is only fair to comment that our organizations status as a non-profit allows us to provide the highest level of professional service to the people of Linden at a minimal cost to the taxpayer.
Neither I, nor anyone in our organization has EVER advocated for the current layoffs of city firefighters and likewise, are they a result of any communication between Linden EMS and the City of Linden. Furthermore, we need to understand that the cut-backs at the fire department have absolutely nothing to do with their own involvement in EMS. Linden EMS has, for many years, worked closely with the Linden Fire Department. We know them well and respect them as first responders and do not wish to see any one of them lose their jobs. However, the issue of EMS services for the city appears to have been drawn into what I understand to be a pre-existing personnel and budget dispute between the city and the Fire Department potentially as a result of the current economy and reduced state aid.
Faced with these layoffs, the Linden Fire Department offered primary EMS services to the City, 24 hours per day, by providing one staffed ambulance and depending on Linden EMS to handle all “second jobs”. I don’t believe that the LFD or the City Council realized the devastating impact this would have on Linden EMS as we would not be able to survive financially and would subsequently be put out-of-business, laying off 23 career staff members. In addition, the additional costs to the city to provide the SAME level of service that the community is receiving from two ambulances will increase dramatically, even with an increase in gross revenue.
As a result of the preceding, a campaign of whispers and rumors has been initiated against Linden EMS, our staff and myself personally. To be perfectly clear, all Linden EMS has advocated for, and will continue to advocate for, is the cost/benefit study on the issue of EMS service in Linden be completed, reviewed and presented to the public prior to any decision being made. This study would look at all potential options and recommend a solution to the city. We see this only as a matter of good public policy and strongly believe that a hasty decision without the benefit of the study would otherwise result in not only further city layoffs but the loss of an additional 23 jobs from our own organization. It is only after a complete analysis of this issue by a professional consulting firm with a specialty in public safety, can a truly informed decision be made in the best interests of the taxpayers. It is in this interest that Linden EMS has offered to fund a percentage of the study so that the city would not incur the full cost.
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