Privatizing Ambulances Saved Money, Lost Lives

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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