5 December 1979
Princetons to pick up salary for daytime 1st aid squadders
by Pam Hersh
The proposal for two municipally financed daytime Princeton First Aid Squad personnel is alive and well as a result of Borough Council and Township Committee agreement at last Tuesday’s joint meeting to fund fully the cost of the personnel for one year.
Councilwoman Nelson van den Blink and Councilman Richard Macgill, during a two-hour discussion, nearly killed the proposal which was rescued by the arguments of Councilman Richard Woodbridge and Township Committee members Kate Litvak. William Cherry and Mayor Josie Hall.
THE FINAL resolution accepted by both municipal bodies states the municipalities would hire, as municipal employees, one paramedic and one emergency medical technician to work for the squad at a total cost (salaries and benefits) of an estimated $32,500.
The funding would be divided between the township and the borough on a ratable basis, meaning the township would foot approximately two-thirds of the bill and the borough would contribute the remaining one-third. The contract would be a one-year agreement, which would have to be renewed at the end of 1980.
“Finally, Princeton residents will have the quality life-saving care they deserve 24 hours a day.” said Councilman Woodbridge. Without the fulltime paid employees, squad officials said the squad couldn’t guarantee emergency life support services during the day.
THE DISAGREEMENT, which became so intense that Committeeman Cherry threatened to sleep on the meeting table until the issue was settled, centered around the following: 1- how the borough would find the additional money to finance its share of the squad personnel expenses; 2- how the expenses should be divided — on a 50/50 basis or on a ratable basis; and 3- whether the squad personnel should be municipal employees or squad employees (with the governments making a donation to the squad in the amount of $32,500).
Council member van den Blink said she felt “uncomfortable” with the proposal because Princeton Medical Center was not contributing a penny toward financing the squad personnel. The Joint First Aid Squad Committee had proposed that the personnel be based at the hospital emergency room, and therefore spend four to five hours a day at the hospital.
“I am tired of Mr. Kaufman (president of the medical center) rattling his sword at us. The hospital does have an obligation to share the financial burden. The hospital will be benefitting from our employees,” said Mrs. van den Blink.
ALTHOUGH NO hospital representative was present at last Tuesday’s meeting, medical center executive vice president Dennis Doody said, during a later interview, the hospital has “no obligation” to pay for the Princeton squad personnel because the hospital serves the entire region, not just Princeton. Eighty percent of the hospital’s users come from towns outside of the Princetons.
“The hospital is doing a service by volunteering to train the first aid squad people from all the PMC area municipalities. State law requires squad personnel spend a certain number of hours in an emergency room in order to maintain their skills.
“If we gave money to Princeton’s squad, we would have to give money to all the squads who use the emergency room. Plus, any outlay of money on the hospital’s part is reflected in higher charges to the patients, most of whom do not live in Princeton. We did not ask the Princeton squad personnel to be based at the hospital.
“As a matter of fact, probably it would be better if the squad personnel were not in the ER all the time. Extra persons can often be a detriment to efficient operations, rather than an asset,” said Mr. Doody.
AFTER THE Borough Council agreed to the expenditure. Councilman Macgill said other borough services would suffer but did not specify which ones.
Mayor Josie Hall of the township said both municipalities would manage to find the money “from somewhere. But that is not really what is important right now. What is important is committing ourselves to quality emergency care to all the people living here.”
Can volunteer spirit help balance budget?
Princeton Borough Council and Township Committee have finally decided to hire two full time, paid emergency service workers for the first aid squad. That the step had to be taken is unfortunate, but the action agreed to by the governing bodies was necessary* and they are to be congratulated for recognizing the need in this vital area.
The lengthy debate about funding the squad centered around one simple fact — lack of municipal money. Both the township and the borough will have to cut other municipal services to pay for squad personnel. No decisions have been made as to which areas will suffer, but government officials know the decisions will be unpopular. Residents must understand the council and committee members were forced to choose priorities, and saving lives was their first priority.
Finding volunteers to perform daytime first aid squad functions is difficult because: squad volunteers must possess the highly specialized skills of a paramedic or an emergency medical technician; 2. daytime emergencies conflict with the non-volunteer jobs of squad members — the squad volunteer often works too far from Princeton, or the employer of the squad volunteer is reluctant to grant the squad member costly time off for daytime emergencies.
However, finding volunters to help perform less technical municipal services should be easier. Educational, recreational or social welfare programs could be augmented with volunteers having no special skills other than a desire to help. Princeton has long prided itself on its high level of spirited volunteerism.
During the recent election, several candidates promised to encourage the volunteer spirit as a way of easing the municipalities’ fiscal crunch. Let’s hope the elected officials will fulfill the promise and the residents will respond. If so, the impact of the bite into the budget could be reduced significantly.