6 September 1981
Paid paramedics face extinction
bv Pam Hersh
September 25 is the scheduled date for the demise of the Princeton First Aid and Rescue Squad’s paid professional daytime paramedic service which is suffering from a lack of money, specifically, Princeton Borough Council money.
Sources, involved in finding a cure to the paid paramedic ailment, said council
is considering a plan of “pay as you go” for daytime first aid calls.
The $32,500 paid paramedic program needs another $3,000 for the remainder of 1981 and another $4,000 to keep the program alive through the second year of its operation, which ends on April 30, 1982.
From April 1980 through April 1981, the two paid paramedics were financed jointly by the township and the borough, with the township paying two-thirds of the costs and the borough paying one-third (the division of costs and the borough paying one-third (the division of costs based on the comparative ratable base of the two towns). For the year from May 1, 1981 through April 30, 1982, the township agreed to pay two-thirds of the program’s cost, but the borough agreed only to pay $5,000.
Currently council members and squad members are in negotiation about the best way to maintain the paid paramedic daytime service. The service, according to squad officials, is mandatory because the volunteers cannot offer paramedic service during the daytime working hours.
The user pay system for daytime first aid calls, which reportedly is being considered now, was discussed months ago
See PARAMEDICS, page 16A
during the council’s budget meetings in January and February. Several of the 35 volunteer First aid squad members, then said and arc now reiterating that a pay system would destroy ”the volunteer first aid squad as we now know it. Many volunteers, who have pride in doing a free service for the community have told me they would quit if we go to a paid system — even if the paid system is only for the daytime hours.
“Plus. I think the fees would be very detrimental to our donations, which we need desperately to pay for our very costly equipment. Why should first aid services be any different from police and fire services? I can envision a situation in which a person risks his life by waiting to call the first aid squad until after 6 p.m. (or until after the user pay daytime hours),” Edwin Obert, captain of the first aid squad, said during an interview on Tuesday.
Mr. Obert also said he is worried not only about getting through the immediate crisis of funding the paramedics, but also the funding crisis of future years.
“We can’t leave our paramedics hanging in job limbo. The men don’t know from day to day if they will be working tomorrow. If the governments don’t act fast, we will lose the two excellent paramedics we now have (Joseph Durman and Kevin Kelsey). One has just about accepted another job, and the other is in the process of looking for a job,” Mr. Obert said.
Although Mr. Obert and other members of the squad said they sympathized with the borough’s fiscal plight, the volunteer first aiders cannot understand why “a town as rich as Princeton cannot afford to support such a vital service. Paying for certain squad calls and not for others will ruin the entire volunteer system.” said squad member Mark Freda.
The squad, which made more than 1,200 calls in 1980, is making 38 percent more calls in 1981. “And without the paid paramedics, many of the daytime calls could not be answered.” said Mr. Obert.