Privatizing Ambulances Saved Money, Lost Lives

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PERTH AMBOY — While 20-year-old Deny Santana-Delora was bleeding badly after being stabbed on a recent Saturday night in downtown Perth Amboy, help was relayed from a frantic 9-1-1 caller through government employees to a non-profit organization that responds to similar calls from almost a dozen area communities.

Three hours later, Deny Santana-Delora was pronounced dead at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick at 2:05 a.m. on Sept. 24. He struggled to stay alive while he was transported and treated but experienced first-aiders say his battle to live might have been lost as he was hemorrhaging on Madison Avenue between Market and Smith streets, waiting for an ambulance.

On May 15, 2009, Mayor Wilda Diaz sent layoffs notices to 10 full-time workers and 45 days later the city’s Emergency Medical Service was eliminated. Diaz abolished the city’s ambulance squad in a year when projected revenue from EMS was $639,340.

Privatizing emergency services could have saved a few dollars but there is no accounting for lives lost in the three years since Diaz turned responsibility for the city’s ambulances to Raritan Bay Medical Center, which itself was “hemorrhaging money,” according to hospital president Michael D’Agnes in November 2008.

D’Agnes predicted on average, every resident in the city will call for emergency assistance at least twice during his or her lifetime — whether a loved one is experiencing a heart attack, seriously ill, or facing traumatic injury.

In 2007, Perth Amboy government employees responded to 4,060 medical emergencies in the 4.5 square mile city and that number increased to 4,345 in 2008.

Before it was entirely responsible for Perth Amboy, Raritan Bay Medical Center’s Mobile Intensive Care Unit responded to about 5,000 calls each year in Woodbridge, South Amboy, Old Bridge, Sayreville and surrounding communities.

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2 comments for “Privatizing Ambulances Saved Money, Lost Lives

  1. EvansRobinson
    October 7, 2012 at 2:44 pm

    Wow, fast and loose with the facts this posting is.

    Not much fact in that article, so here is the unpleasant truths:

    Response times have improved because the hospital has more ambulances on duty then the sole former municipal ambulance.

    The municipality uses the same dispatch center as the paramedics, further streamlining the communications process.

    “Experienced first aiders” would not step up and allow their names to be published because they know this is not the truth.

    The municipality was not in accordance with the law because the ambulance service was billing without a public bid process. Only a fire department based ambulance can do so under the law without bids.

    Can the municipality afford paying fire fighters salaries and do firemen really want to ride an ambulance even if it were true?

    RBMC’s MICU is not “entirely resonsible” for Perth Amboy and always has been responsible for other communities since its inception. The state issues Letters of Need for paramedic services. NEVER has this been issued strictly for Perth Amboy alone. The statement is purposely fabricated and directly misleading.

    There is lots wrong in EMS no doubt, but it is state wide systemic problems and not limited here to Perth Amboy or RBMC. When trying to better the system, it is always better to address the problems objectively rather than politicizing untruths fr your slanted puroses.

    Unafraid to sign my name,
    Evans Robinson
    Concerned Citizen

    • eddiem
      October 15, 2012 at 8:29 pm

      Good Evening Mr. Robinson,

      I am glad you are able to respond as a concerned citizen, more people need to be concerned about what takes place in their community.

      However, your information is not all factual; I have firsthand knowledge of the EMS system in Perth Amboy prior to the switch to Raritan Bay Medical Center and a good amount of knowledge of the current system.

      First Raritan Bay Medical Center did not have Basic Life Support (BLS) EMT’s responding to 911 calls on a regular basis until they took over EMS for Perth Amboy, they did have BLS units responding to Medical Transports. Their paramedics (ALS) Advance Life Support or Mobile Intensive Care Units respond to over 5000 calls a year in surrounding communities including Perth Amboy.

      You are correct about Mayor Diaz disbanding the ambulance service with the projected revenue, what was not mentioned is how the city would save $400,000.00 by not having to pay for employee pension or benefits; this would be a great savings if this was the true reasoning. Over the last few years new employees have been hired in various departments of the city including the fire and police department, many members have received promotions; so the savings went out the window.

      Response times may have decreased a portion of the time, this happens when RBMC non-emergency units are not on calls and they can provide backup service to the one ambulance which is solely assigned to Perth Amboy.

      The municipality does not use the same dispatch center as the paramedics, the city has its own dispatch center which takes the 911 calls for EMS, Fire and Police then determines if it is a medical call. If it is a medical call they call a dispatch center for EMS in Middlesex County called Med Central, they then dispatch the BLS and/or ALS units as needed. (This causes a time delay)

      The municipality was in accordance with the law because the ambulance service was a part of the fire department, the law states any municipal ran EMS agency does not have to go out to bid.

      The municipality did not pay firefighters to staff the ambulance; EMT’s were hired to staff the ambulance ran by the fire department.

      No secret to anyone RBMC faces financial concerns every day and so does the city of Perth Amboy. Not any one person can tell you what the best delivery of EMS is.

      Not only is Perth Amboy unsure but around the nation we have various different models. Fire based EMS has proven to work, Hospital based EMS has proven to work, and so has private based EMS. The only thing we are all sure of is EMS is not funded the same way Fire and Police services are.

      Majority of the time EMS agencies are funded by the revenue collected by insurances, in Perth Amboy the city was able to offset the cost by tax dollars.

      At some point the contract with RBMC is going to expire, which is about 2 years away. At this time, if RBMC cannot afford to provide the service at the same cost the city EMS did of $0.00 and only collect what the insurance company returns, they will to have to ask for money from the city under the next contract.


      Edward Murawski, Former EMT/ Assistant Program Administrator, Perth Amboy Fire-EMS

      And Still and active EMT with multiple EMS agencies including; public/private agency and hospital based system.

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