Capitol Health wins ambulance contract

East Windsor lays off two employees

Michael Arges
   EAST WINDSOR — The Township Council voted unanimously Tuesday, March 28, to spend $1 a year to contract with Capital Health Systems of Helene Fuld Medical Center for emergency medical services.
   The township already has issued layoff notices to two township employees who have been helping provide EMS services during the day to supplement the township’s volunteer EMS squad.
   The agreement will provide a “substantial saving to taxpayers,” said Mayor Janice Mironov.
   The township will save about $255,000 per year “in direct costs,” Mayor Mironov said, plus indirect savings on expenses such as workers’ compensation claims and wear and tear on township ambulances.
   Opponents to the plan emphasized the high quality of EMS assistance the township now enjoys.
   “I want to make it perfectly clear” that the decision to contract out daytime services has “absolutely nothing to do with the (township’s) rescue squad volunteers,” Mayor Mironov said.
   She assured squad members that she and the township council are behind them “200 percent.”
   The mayor said the decision should be viewed in its historical context. In December 1988, the township made the decision, in conjunction with rescue volunteers, to go to a paid daytime emergency medical services “to assure good response time” during the day, she said.
   The township will continue to have its own ambulances, equipment and nighttime service by the volunteers. The volunteers will provide back-up service for Capital Health Services during the day, just as they now back up the township’s EMS employees.
   Councilman Marc Lippman said “a tremendous amount of time and research was put into this service. Consideration was given to every single call scenario was gone over with Capitol.”
   Councilman Perry Shapiro added his assurance that “the public will be well served” by the new arrangement.
   During the meeting, several residents commented on the new arrangement, including Lydia Mezrich of Poplar Run, who spoke of her confidence in the present EMS crews, both paid and volunteer. Five years ago, her husband was hit by a car while on a walk and was helped by the paid crew of the rescue squad.
   “As I watched my husband lying on the ground I was very comforted to know that the East Windsor rescue squad was going to show up,” Ms. Mezrich said. “I was able to keep him from losing consciousness by saying, ‘the rescue squad is coming.’”
   She said “it’s very comforting for somebody who’s lived here 25 years to know that when you pick up the phone in an emergency that someone as warm, as caring, and very, very experienced is going to come to your aid and rescue, and is going to come as quickly as is humanly possible. I recognize the need to lower costs and our taxes, but we’re a family, we’re a community, and this is not where we should lower our costs.”
   In response to the concerns of the residents at the meeting, Mayor Mironov reaffirmed her commitment to quality service: “A good quality of emergency medical services is something that our residents deserve.”
   The new contract would maintain EMS service free of charge to residents, Mayor Mironov said. Capital Health Systems will bill the insurance companies of those who have insurance — not directly bill the residents.
   The agreement with Capitol, expenses not covered by insurance — such as insurance co-payments or fees for those without health insurance — will be “written off,” Mayor Mironov said. “No individuals will be billed,” only insurance companies, she promised.
   Capitol Health Services will provide EMS Monday through Friday, 5 a.m. to 7 p.m.
   Capitol Health Systems has indicated that “employment will be offered” to the two EMS employees laid off by the township, Mayor Mironov said. Capitol will require a minimum of three years experience for EMS employees serving East Windsor township.
   The primary ambulance used during the day will be stationed in the township, probably at township police headquarters, the mayor said.
   One advantage of the new arrangement is that a second staffed ambulance would be available in the county to back up the primary ambulance, in addition to the backup provided by township volunteers and their vehicles.