BY BILL CLEARY
Lourdes Health System’s three year contract with the City of Gloucester City to provide basic life ambulance service to residents will start Friday, April 1. The controversial measure was approved at the February council meeting by a 4-1 vote. The lone nay vote came from Councilwoman Kellie Ferry. Absent were Councilmen Nick Marchese and Dan Spencer.
The City laid off 8 of the 31 member fire department in December because, according to the statement released by mayor and council at the time, “Refusal of union leaders to revise their position on onerous, expensive work rules have left Gloucester City with no choice but to issue layoff notices to eight fire-fighters, effective December 23."
No explanation has been given to the public by city officials on why the ambulance service was put out for bid. Residents have been left to wonder what were the reasons for the move especially since the ambulance service has been handled efficiently for decades by paid firemen/EMT’s and volunteer firemen. An if it was costing taxpayers money why would a private concern be interested in operating an ambulance that was losing money?
To put those questions to rest CNB has reached out to City Administrator Jack Lipsett to provide the documents that were analyze to show how a private ambulance service will save taxpayers money. Lipsett, along with Mayor Bill James and Councilman Bruce Parry, were the people who reviewed and recommended the change, according to Councilman Nick Marchese. Lipsett said on Thursday (March 24) he would provide the information in the near future. “Give me time to get it together.”
In the meantime Carol Lynn Daly, Director, Marketing and Media Relations for Lourdes answered some questions about what residents can expect from the new ambulance service along with providing some other information.
Asked how Lourdes got involved with Gloucester City, Daly said, “Earlier this year, Gloucester city officials sent out a “request for proposal” to local hospitals and ambulance providers to offer pre-hospital ambulance transport to the residents of Gloucester City. Lourdes responded to the request for proposal out of a commitment to serving the South Jersey community. Lourdes was selected to be the city’s EMS provider, effective April 1.”
According to Daly Lourdes offered right of consideration first to the EMS workers who were laid off, “however, they were not responsive to Lourdes offer.”
She went on to say, “Hospitals that provide EMS services in local communities are becoming increasingly more common. Lourdes has answered the need in Pemberton Township and the system is working well. Lourdes recognizes that by providing EMS service, the hospital is meeting a community need, keeping costs to the city budget low, and ultimately providing a continuum of care for patients.”
“ Quality care and patient safety are of the utmost importance at Lourdes and providing EMS services in Gloucester city falls in line with our mission.”
Daly said the Lourdes Gloucester City EMS ambulance will be stationed at a Gloucester City firehouse as such “there will be no increase in response time.”
She said all EMS workers are state-licensed EMTs.
As for billing patients, “ Lourdes will bill for ambulance service just as Gloucester City bills currently.”...(note: presently GCFD uses hard and soft billing system, meaning the patient's health insurance is billed if no insurance paper work is provided for assistance).
When asked if the new ambulance will be any different from the city ambulance that Gloucester residents had for years she said, “Lourdes is working to make the transition as seamless as possible. Our aim is to improve access for City residents.”
Besides Gloucester City Lourdes is providing ambulance service to Pemberton Township. They took over in Pemberton on October 1, 2010.
Daly said patients can choose the hospital they want to be taken to, they wont be limited to just Lourdes. She also said Lourdes ambulance will provide 24 hour coverage.
If Lourdes EMT's are out on a call who will back up the ambulance if another call is receive?
“Back up will be other Lourdes EMTs with backup from fire department and mutual aid if necessary. This arrangement will be as it is right now,” said Daly.
If residents have a question about billing or service who do they call?
“Service questions would be addressed to EMS Squad manager and billing questions would be the same company that currently serves the City.”
Eugene Johnson, CEO of Lourdes Medical Center of Burlington County and Acting COO for Lourdes Health System negotiated the contract with the City.