6 December, 1985
Non-paramedics bill is stuck in committee
By Nancy Freilberg
“TRENTON—Legislators, state health officials and paramedics went head to head Thursday over a bill that would allow a paramedic and an Emergency Medical Technician Inter-mediate (EMTI) to ride on lifemobile units.
The bill, which has passed in the Assembly, was held in the Senate Institutions, Health, and Welfare Committee Thursday because it lacked the necessary votes for release.
It may be considered for release again on Monday, according to the sponsor.
The legislation was proposed by Assemblyman Joseph Bocchini (D-Mercer) in response to a recent law requiring two paramedics to respond to calls requiring advanced life saving techniques.
That brought about a big change in Mercer County, where local squads had operated with volunteer para-medics and emergency medical technicians for 10 years. Under the county’s new plan, two paid paramedics are on call in each of three lifemobiles based at Helene Fuld Medical Center.
Local rescue squads that do not have two paramedics available must call the county unit for patients requiring advanced life support.
Assemblyman Bocchini and others — including Mercer County Human Services Director Ann Miner — say the three units are not adequate to cover the county, and that volunteer paramedics are being lost to the paid county program.
“Two paramedics are better than one, but what if you don’t have two paramedics?” Assemblyman Bocchini asked the committee when it became apparent the measure would not be released. “You have a stiff, that’s what you have.”.
“In the last six months, of the 10 advanced life-saving volunteer units in Mercer County, we are down to two paramedics west of Route 1,” Ms. Miner said. “The idea of allowing a paramedic to ride with an EMTI goes forward and makes legal what we have been doing in the county for the past 10 years.”
The EMTI would be trained in advanced life-saving skills on a level in between a paramedic and an EMTI. The training program for EMTIs has already been approved in a measure governing rural areas of the state.
The Princeton First Aid and Rescue Squad is an example of the changes that have resulted under the new plan. Two EMTIs are available on a full-time basis, but the squad’s regular volunteer paramedics went to work for the county program, according to squad Chief Mark Freda.
While those same paramedics still volunteer their services, they are only available when not on call for the county program, he said. “The squad has not taken a position on this bill, but personally I believe there’s a shortage of paramedics in our area and this would help many of the volunteer units to stay in bushiness.”
Representatives of the Department of Health and the American Heart Association, however, expressed strong opposition to the bill yesterday.
The Department of Health said the bill would “lower the standard of care that is available in New Jersey,” and the heart association said studies show two paramedics are needed to ad-minister advanced life support techniques.