Municipal officials fight plan for Mercer Lifemobiles

The Trenton Times
9 November, 1984

Municipal officials fight plan for Mercer Lifemobiles

Author: Jo Astrid Glading, Staff Writer

Helene Fuld Medical Center has proposed the redistribution of Life mobiles within the county in order to come into compliance with state law, but the plan met with sharp opposition from officials from nearly every municipality in Mercer County.

The municipal officials argued that the changes would mean critically ill patients in their communities would have to wait longer for Lifemoblles.

The change would establish three full-time, strategically-located Lifemobiles — probably one each In Trenton, Hamilton a ad the Princeton area, according to Dr. Leslie Ultan, who heads the Lifemobile program administered by Helene Fuld. There now Is one full-time rig in the county operating out of Helene Fuld. Several municipalities operate part-time rigs.

If an adequàte number of volunteers can be found, he said, rigs would be in the West Windsor and Pennington areas as well as the three proposed in the hospital’s plan.

“We’re not going to be removing anything. Basically we’re adding to what already exists with some little adjustments to comply with state regulations,” Ultan said. He explained that overall response time would improve because the fulltime, paid professionals would be dressed and at the rig when the call came In. rather than have to drive to the first aid station.

AS PART of the change, however, existing volunteer rigs which are riding as advanced life support vehicles with only one paramedic, as all Lifemobiles now operate, would be downgraded to Basic Life Support. The BLS vehicle staffs cannot administer medication or start intravenous fluids. The municipal officials argued that their volunteer squads would be left powerless in emergency situations.

Under Helene Fuld’s proposal, the BLS units would continue to respond and would prepare the patients during any time lag, estimated to be three to five minutes at the most, before the lifemobile arrives.

By the end of the lengthy and frequently heated session, the hospital officials said they would accept proposals from municipalities to supplement the county program with part time coverage of ALS rigs with two paramedics.

The change is being made under an order from the state Department of Health, which told Helene Fuld Officials last month that the Lifemobile program they’ve administered since 1980 has not been in compliance with state mandates because only one paramedic has been aboard.

“We thought (one paramedic per rig) was being permitted for an interval amount of time, until the state advised us differently,’’ Ultan said.

He said the “reality of the situation has worsened” during the past two years because paramedics are leaving the county in droves as their specialty becomes a profession and as paid positions open up outside the county. As a result, he said, an increasing number of calls are not being “handled appropriately.”

IN THE PAST two years, 23 volunteer paramedics have moved out of the county or stopped volunteering* acceding to James Hutchinson, coordinator of Helene Fuld’s Mobile Intensive, Care Unit Program.

“Because of the nature of volunteerism, it’s very difficult for us to control these people,” said Al Maghazebe, an assistant adminstrator at Helene Fuld.

“We had a meeting with the paramedics and they didn’t speak too highly of this operation,” said Hamilton Mayor Jack Rafferty. “Everything told to us at the last meeting is that paramedics are trained to go it alone.”

‘‘You may have gotten a small sample of those that feel threatened,” Ultan said.
East Windsor Mayor Leonard Millner said he feared the dedication of the volunteers will wane when their power to act as paramedics is taken away. “Under this program, the motivation will not be there,” he said.

Perhaps the most vocal opponent was Lawrence Township Manager Bob Albertson, who said his township is left like “the hole in the doughnut” by the planned redistribution of the Lifemobiles. He said if the township cannot come to terms with the county on a method of increasing coverage, and “if we feel it is a threat, especially in terms of response time,” administrative or legal remedies may be sought.

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