Due to a lack of available volunteers and an increase in emergency medical care requests, Bergen County has formed its own mutual assistance emergency medical services unit. In an evaluation of Bergen County’s EMS services conducted earlier this year, County Executive Jim Tedesco and a panel of experts concluded that more resources were required.
The county has acquired four pre-owned ambulances, two of which came from New Milford, and has hired four permanent and twenty-eight temporary staff members with the help of American Rescue Act grant money. Expenses for running the business can be covered by the current billing system.
“Our local Emergency Medical Service professionals sometimes need help in delivering medical care to their residents due to staffing issues and high-volume calls,” said Tedesco, who is also a first responder. “It makes sense for the county of Bergen to step in and provide backup service and assistance to those communities that need an extra hand.”
On February 9, four ambulances were put into operation for the pilot program, with a fifth one undergoing repairs. Derek Sands, a spokesman for Tedesco, said that so far the squad has responded to more than 55 service calls.
“EMS is providing emergent, urgent and preventive care to patients as an integrated component of their community’s health care system, and it makes sense for the county to be a part of that service and that solution going forward so that we can help provide the best possible care to all of our residents,” Tedesco said.
Captain Matthew Tiedemann, the coordinator for emergency management in Bergen County, has stated that an ambulance service will be available daily between the hours of 6:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m.
“We had cops waiting for ambulances for 45 minutes sometimes. We needed to make sure more ambulances are on the roads,” Tiedemann said. “Hospitals weren’t able to provide more and volunteers are a dying breed during the day because people need to work their full-time jobs.”
Over the past few years, a number of local EMS agencies have closed their doors owing to a lack of volunteers, putting extra strain on the remaining EMS services. Because of a dearth of volunteers, many communities have begun relying on pay-as-you-go services.
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Recent years have seen the dissolution of volunteer ambulance corps services in Elmwood Park, Rochelle Park, Maywood, Bogota, and North Haledon owing to staffing shortages. The ambulances will be based in Paramus, but will travel around the county as needed.
An association of hospitals uses a dispatch system that can find the closest ambulance using GPS and send it to the scene of an emergency. Gov. Phil Murphy passed a measure last year providing funds to local ambulance and rescue squads to aid with depleting resources and volunteers.
Each year, counties and municipalities can legally donate more money to these volunteer programs. An annual increase from $70,000 to $125,000 in contributions is mandated by the law. The threshold at which a company can qualify for “experiences extraordinary need,” funding was raised from $35,000 to $70,000.
Bergen County Commissioner Chairman Tom Sullivan pledged,
“As long as I am county commissioner, I will continue to make sure that our first responders have the resources that they need to do their jobs effectively, and keep our communities safe,”
“Our commissioners will continue to prioritise the safety of our residents, and have the backs of the hard-working men and women who put so much on the line for us as first responders.”
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