The Princeton Packet
25 August, 1985
Rescuers fearing deficit with lifemobile mandate
By Barbara Perone
and Marjorie Snyder
The Princeton First Aid and Rescue Squad Inc. fears a serious shortfall in donations — which could jeopardize its entire operation — if its stays in the state mandated lifemobile program.
The program, known as Mobile Intensive Care Unit (MICU) provides Mercer County with a 24-hour lifemobile service with paid paramedics and is scheduled to start in Princeton within the next few weeks. Lifemobiles are ambulances with special life-saving equipment. The program is supposed to begin operating in all five Mercer County hospitals shortly. And each time a patient uses the lifemobile the hospital charges him $352.
The fees are sent to Helene Fuld Medical Center in Trenton, which runs the program and uses the fees to fund the program, which is now mandated by the state Department of Health.
While the service will ensure quality intensive care to all county residents, it has one big disadvantage, according to Mark Freda, Princeton rescue squad president.
“Obviously, they (Helene Fuld) have to raise funds to pay for the people and the vehicles. And the bad part is that anytime our own lifemobile is responds to a call in Princeton they the hospital) still want to charge us $350. Is that really fair” he asked.
Not all communities have their own paid paramedics or have their own lifemobiles.
Under the program, patients here will not be charged if the lifemobile unit responds and is not used, but if it is used they will be charged $350 for the service, Mr. Freda explained.
“That just strikes me as a crock of you-know-what.” said Princeton Township Mayor Winthrop Pike, referring to the requirement.
“There is a good deal of concern about this. It may spell the death knell for our excellent emergency squad and we (the Township Committee) are going to see if we can do something about it. We hope to have someone from the state Department of Health come talk to us the next time we discuss it.” said the mayor.
“People should protest this by writing to the state health department, and contacting local assemblymen and senators to put the pressure on them to change this.” said Mr. Freda, echoing the mayor’s comments.
“We the people of Princeton pay for our ambulance through donations made to the squad. Our tax dollars pay for our day crew. What is happening now is this has already created a misunderstanding for some people who think that every time they use the rescue squad they will be charged $350 by us. and that is not the case.” he added.
“Unless the public understands what is going on this could really hurt us. It is just one mote thing that harms the volunteer spirit.” the rescue squad president said.
Last year, the squad raised $119,000 through donations, while its expenses reached $130,000, he said. While the squad had enough reserve funds to pay for its operational costs if group experiences another shortfall this year “it will wipe out our reserve,” according to Mr. Freda.
But the local rescue squad is not the only group that is concerned about this program.
While Helene Fuld is billing the Medical Center at Princeton for this service, the Princeton hospital is not billing patients directly, but billing patients’ private insurance companies or Medicare, according to Joseph S. Bonanno, executive vice president of the hospital.
“Right now, it appears all insurance, Medicare. takes care of the it all,” he said.
However, the hospital has “not agreed to the arrangement” with Helene Fuld and is reviewing the program, Mr. Bonanno said.
Hospital officials fear that if they begin charging patients $352 for the lifemobile service it will cause the local rescue squad to lose community funding, according to Mr. Bonanno.