January 26, 2020
Editorial by: PFANJ, Professional Firefighters of NJ
The Emergency Medical Service (EMS) system in New Jersey has long been in need of revamping and overhauling. Since 2010, the Professional Firefighters Association of New Jersey (PFANJ) has been working with the New Jersey State Legislature to enact critical changes to our EMS system that will help keep our communities safe. In fact, a law to rebuild the system was passed by the Legislature in 2012, but was vetoed by Governor Christie.
State Senator Declan J. O’Scanlon Jr. (R-13) is taking advantage of the union-busting shut-down of MONOC – New Jersey’s Hospital Service Corporation on April 1 to advocate for swift passage of a bill he is sponsoring (S-617) that would fundamentally change EMS delivery in New Jersey. Make no mistake, this bill will impact the method in which emergency medical help is provided to every neighborhood and family in our great state. The O’Scanlon bill is not the lifeline the NJ EMS system needs.
Instead of strengthening New Jersey’s EMS system, O’Scanlon’s bill lowers standards. It takes highly trained paramedics out of advanced life support units and replaces them with lower-paid EMTs with significantly less training and life-saving capabilities. While O’Scanlon’s bill claims to allow more staffing flexibility, it merely gives hospital systems shortcuts to higher profits. Some of these same hospital systems are the very ones responsible for the dismantling of MONOC.
MONOC, which provided ALS service in New Jersey for 40 years, is being dismantled and shutting its doors on April 1, 2020. MONOC was run by a board of directors that included management from RWJBarnabas Health, Hackensack Meridian Health and CentraState Healthcare System. These hospitals systems now will absorb MONOC’s service area. MONOC’s International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) union EMS professionals will all lose their jobs and are offered no guarantee of employment in these takeover areas.
Senator O’Scanlon has stated that MONOC’s business model was no longer sustainable. One must ask, if these hospital systems were responsible for MONOC when MONOC collapsed, how will they effectively run this new EMS service?
The needed overhaul of our EMS system should be about giving the citizens of New Jersey the best possible emergency medical services available. The PFANJ and Professional Emergency Medical Service Association PEMSA – IAFF Local 4610 (PEMSA) have worked constructively in the past with Senator O’Scanlon on this overhaul, but more work needs to be done before this current and flawed legislation moves forward.
Paramedics know that hurrying through an emergency scene can lead to unintended mistakes. Deliberative care is always best for the patient and results in a better long-term prognosis. The same can be said for legislation. Instead of rushing to pass legislation like O’Scanlon’s bill that front-line EMS professionals are uncertain will help our communities, it is far more prudent to work with all stakeholders to create sustainable solutions that will have a proven positive impact on how EMS is delivered.
The citizens of New Jersey deserve the best emergency medical system the world has to offer. The PFANJ looks forward to continuing to modernize and increase professionalism of our state’s EMS system. We fear that the forced closure of MONOC and the rushing of O’Scanlon’s bill takes us in the wrong direction and makes us all less safe.
Professional Firefighters Association of New Jersey