Plug the hole in the emergency care system


The Princeton Packet

25 March, 1986 (~estimated)

Plug the hole in emergency care system 

A head-on collision Monday on Route 518 at the Montgomery-Hopewell Township border has left its tragic mark on the families of the victims.

It has also exposed a terrible weakness in the state’s new method of deploying paramedics.

On Monday three nearly simultaneous emergency situations arose: an auto accident on Route 206 in Montgomery, a heart attack struck a patient in a Hopewell doctor’s office, and the Route 518 crash.

Yet the Mercer County lifemobile detailed to cover the northwest portion of the county was in Freehold because it had to follow a patient there from an earlier call. Lifemobiles were dispatched from Trenton and Somerville, each taking more than 20 minutes to arrive on the scene. 

A Montgomery rescue squad member was able to save the life of one of the Route 518 victims, and there is no guarantee the lifemobile paramedics would have been able to save the 34-year-old mother who was killed. But it’s the lack of availability of a nearby lifemobile that causes concern. 

Under the county plan put in service at the end of 1985, lifemobiles were to be headquartered in Hamilton, Trenton, and Princeton. This service, staffed by paid paramedics, was to replace the system of paramedics — mostly volunteer — operating with rescue squads, especially in the suburban areas.

To make matters worse, the lifemobile headquartered in Princeton was moved to West Windsor because adequate quarters to “house the paramedics were apparently too difficult to arrange. 

While the plan’s organizers claimed there would be adequate paramedic coverage for the entire county, Monday’s situation has proven that coverage is not always on hand. 

The bottom line is that paramedic coverage is inadequate in northwestern Mercer County and southeastern Somerset County. The state’s mandate to provide paramedic coverage to all has yet to be borne out by the system operating here. 

Monday’s emergencies have pointed out the deficiencies in the system, especially for the Montgomery and Hopewell areas. It’s past time for the plan’s organizers to fix them. There should be a lifemobile headquartered on the west side of Route 1 to avoid these situations. Trenton is unfortunately too far away to offer the quick care that is often a necessity. 

Our local government officials must show they can offer the necessary leadership to lobby for the return of the lifemobile unit where it is needed. 

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