As reported today in the Home News Tribune, Edison township’s volunteer rescue squads will be downsized, as revealed in a meeting Wednesday between the squads and township’s new emergency services vendor, JFK Medical Center.
The three volunteer squads comprising Raritan Valley Regional Emergency Services will be reduced from nightly and weekend services with three ambulances to nightly services with one, said Vamsi Revuru, a board member of the consolidated squads.
Negotiations with JFK to acquire a second ambulance will continue Tuesday, said Revuru, also head trustee of Edison First Squad 2; one of the three squads consolidated three years ago as Raritan Valley Regional.
Last weekend, rumors abounded in the township that volunteer squads were being disbanded. The township denied rumors on its website and in a recorded message from Mayor Ricigliano to township residents, she said, “Rumors have spread that Edison is eliminating the volunteer squads. This is unfounded and untrue. Squads 1,2 and Clara Barton forms the Raritan Valley EMS, which became the billing agent for the squads. A meeting requested by squad leaders will be held in my office to clarify the process. Both the administration and JFK want the squads to succeed.”
“Concerns remain about the financial sustainability and membership of the volunteer squads because of the downsizing,” Revuru said. “According to the contract between the township and JFK, the volunteer squads no longer will be able to bill patients and their insurance companies in order to meet annual expenses. Membership also is expected to decline if volunteers only are needed to man one ambulance nightly,” Revuru said. “They are going to stand by and just watch us destroy ourselves,” he said. “It’s not that the administration is out for us or that the JFK department heads want to shut us down. It’s a lack of action on the administration’s or JFK’s part that’s going to make us self-implode. We’re not politicians or lobbyists. What we know best is how to help people and serve the community. That’s what it comes down to. We don’t know how to play this game.”
Township Management Specialist Bill Stephens said a $35,000 stipend was removed about 18 months ago when the volunteer squads started billing. Now that they no longer can bill under the command of JFK, a stipend will be considered based on the extent of updated operations, Stephens said. He also said that the township also is considering helping the squads by paving their parking lots, providing an additional gas stipend, and utilizing volunteers for Fire Department operations and other public-safety voids.
“We want to help them as much as we can, but they really have to start looking into fundraising,” Stephens said. “Back in the old days, they used to fund raise door-to-door.”
Revuru said donations have declined, but Stephens said that is because the volunteer squads started billing.
The outsourcing to JFK will create a $500,000 revenue stream for the township, Stephens said, including $200,000 in savings and $300,000 paid by JFK annually for township dispatching services. The hospital will be providing training to both the township’s professional and volunteer rescue squads, he said.
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