West Windsor now home for lifemobile unit

Princeton Packet

11 March, 1986

West Windsor now home for lifemobile unit

By Sally Lane

Staff Writer

Seeking more space for its crew members and a central location, officials governing the Mobile Intensive Care Unit (MICU) program moved one of its three units Monday from Princeton to West Windsor Township. But while the move might mean twice as much room for Mercer County paramedics, area rescue squad members believe it could double response time to emergency calls in the county’s outer reaches.

The countywide MICU program, which officially began in December, uses full-time paid paramedics to respond to emergency calls throughout the county. The units, stationed in Mercerville, Hamilton Township, and the Helene Fuld Medical Center in Trenton where the program is based, are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. A patient is billed $350 for a lifemobile call.

Since November, the lifemobile — a non-transport unit used to carry advanced life support equipment to the scene of an emergency — has been moved three times, said Suzanne Nawrock, MICU program coordinator since July.

On Monday, a lifemobile was moved from the Valley Road Administration Building in Princeton to the Princeton Junction Volunteer Fire Co. building on Clarksville Road.

“It seemed that in the last couple of places we were in other people’s way,” Ms. Nawrock said.

Originally stationed at the Medical Center at Princeton, the lifemobile was moved to the Valley Road building six weeks ago because of overcrowding at the center.

At the Medical Center, space was “at a premium,” Ms. Nawrock said.

Jane Kerney, public relations director for the hospital, agreed but was “frankly surprised” that the unit had moved from the center in the first place.

“Space at the medical center is incredibly tight,” she said.

Still, the medical center would “love to have them (the paramedics) there,” she said “We like to have the EMTs (emergency medical technicians) work with us at the center — to have a good ongoing relationship with them,” she said.

Mark Freda, a Princeton Borough Councilman, agreed that rapport between the hospital emergency room staff and the MICU paramedics is important.

Since November, the lifemobile— a non-transport unit used to carry advanced life support equipment to the scene of an emergency— has been moved three times

“The number one ideal location for the lifemobile to be is at the PMC,” the former Princeton First Aid & Rescue Squad president said.

If located at the medical center, the hospital staff and paramedics would get to know one another, and thus “work better” together, he said.

Access to the hospital’s medication system would also be an advantage, he said.

Every time the paramedics use something from a drug box on board the lifemobile, they have to refill the box and complete the related paperwork accounting for the drugs, Mr. Freda said.

If the lifemobile had to go on a call before that work was completed, they could grab another drug box located at the hospital, he said.

Although disturbed by the lifemobile’s move, Mr. Freda agreed that quarters at the Valley Road building were cramped because the paramedics had to share the facilities with bus drivers from the Princeton Regional School District.

“Every time the bus drivers came in for lunch, they’d (the paramedics) have to leave for two hours and ride around in the van,” he said.

Nanette Lieggi, a paramedic with the squad, confirmed Mr. Freda’s report.

Sitting at the paramedic’s new quarters — a 25-by-25-square-foot room complete with a pool table, large color television set, several couches, a stove and a refrigerator — Ms. Lieggi marked off a 8-by-12 portion of the room representing the paramedics’ Valley Road quarters.

And the paramedics’ facilities at the Medical Center were the size of a closet, said Dr. L. Barry Ultan, director of the Mobile Intensive Care Unit program. But although the move may have provided the paramedics with larger facilities, the vehicle’s location could negatively affect response time for those on the northwest side of Route 1.

“Well, it will affect response time definitely (for Princeton). Prior to this, they were right smack in the middle of Princeton.” Mr. Freda said.

For Pennington and Hopewell, the move may have so greatly increased response time that time may no longer be a factor for the townships, said Richard Butterfoss, president of the Pennington Rescue Squad.

“That’s much, much further away from us.” Mr. Butterfoss said of the new location. Response time to Pennington and Hopewell could increase by as much as 15 minutes, he said.

“We could be at the hospital (PMC) by the time they get here — it doesn’t really make any sense to have one (a lifemobile,)” he said.

But Ms. Nawrock disagreed. “We’re only a minute or so out of the Princeton Township area,” she said.

Besides, none of the program is “written in granite.” Dr. Ultan said.

The doctor said he would be willing to reassess the program if the move’s results were negative.

“I know we’re always looking at optimal call time,” he said. “We’re trying to get it (the MICU program) as perfect as possible.”

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