Kauffman wants towns to guarantee coverage

The Princeton Packet
April 4, 1979

Aid squad service
Kauffman wants towns to guarantee coverage

by Pam Hersh
Surf Writer

At last Wednesday’s meeting of the Joint First Aid and Rescue Squad Committee, John Kauffman, Princeton Medical Center board of trustees president, called upon Princeton’s municipal governments to “guarantee” working day first aid squad coverage for Princeton’s residents.

“If no volunteers are available, the municipalities have to live up to their responsibilities and must finance fulltime paid first aid squad personnel to serve Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. All the taxpayers. not just a few private institutions, must share the cost burden of first aid squad services.

“Although the hospital is now making available one of its personnel for emergency squad daytime calls, this arrangement is only temporary. It is very expensive for the hospital or any other private business to give up its people during the day,” said Mr. Kauffman, who was addressing a group of persons representing the Township Committee, Borough Council, First Aid Squad and the hospital’s Medical and Surgical Staff.

The hospital, according to its board president, would continue to allow its employees to answer working day calls, “but only for a limited time — only until the governments find a more permanent solution to the problem.”

The problem to which Mr. Kauffman referred is the squad’s daytime manpower shortage, which for the past year has hampered the squad’s ability to function as effectively during the day as it functions during the evening.

“The squad has had difficulty getting together a daytime crew to answer emergency calls. Twelve times during the past year, neighboring squads have been called in to answer Princeton emergencies. Also, we cannot give advanced paramedic life support services in the day, a service which we proudly offer at night,” said Edwin Obert, captain of the First Aid Squad.

Even though the number of calls to which the squad could not respond amounted to only 1 percent of the squad’s total calls last year, “the daytime personnel problem is most undesirable. Lives could have been lost,” he said.

Richard Woodbridge, the Borough Council representative to the joint committee, and Kate Litvak, the Township Committee’s representative, said they could make no promises on behalf of the municipal bodies.

Both officials discussed the fiscal crunches the municipalities are enduring at the present time. The borough, according to Mr. Woodbridge, has increasing expenses with a stagnant ratable income. The township, said Mrs. Litvak, has a 1979 budget which is only $153 under the state imposed cap limit

Dr. David Atkin, president of the hospital’s Medical and Surgical Staff, said it was not up to him or Mr. Kauffman to figure out where the municipalities would get the money to finance a daytime crew.

“The township and borough representatives are obligated to take the money from other areas to correct what we see as a significant oversight in health care,” he said.

Although the budgets for 1979 are set, said Mr. Woodbridge, a possible source of funds for an immediate financing of First Aid Squad personnel would be an emergency appropriation.

Mr. Obert estimated two paramedics would cost the municipalities a total of $30,000 for salaries and benefits.

In a separate interview, Princeton Borough Administrator Robert Mooney said, “The problem with an emergency appropriation is that the appropriation has to be carried over into next year’s budget and would be included, in all likelihood, in the cap. We would have to take the money from another segment of an already strained budget. The squad’s request for money comes at probably one of the worst times in the history of the borough.”

Joseph Nini, the township’s administrator, said the emergency appropriation “would have a double barreled effect in the 1980 budget. For example, let’s say, the township and borough split the First Aid Squad costs and each would pay $15,000. This means that in 1980, the township would not only have to pay back the $15,000 it borrowed through emergency appropriation. but would also have to pay for continuing the squad program. This would amount to an additional $30,000 for next year’s budget, to be found within the cap limits.”

The possibility does exist for the emergency appropriation repayment to be excluded from the cap, said Mr. Nini. The state Department of Community Affairs decides what items are to be included within and excluded from the cap. If the township and borough pass the emergency appropriation by means of an ordinance, “there is a chance the appropriation might be excluded from the cap,” said Mr. Nini.

The ordinance procedure requires a public hearing, which, “in the eyes of the state, means the expenditure was approved by the people and well thought out. Because of this, the state sometimes allows an emergency appropriation passed by means of an ordinance to remain outside of the cap.” said the township administrator.

The joint borough – township – squad committee has been discussing the squad’s manpower shortage for almost one year. The committee thus far has come up with no concrete solutions to the problem other than to ask Princeton employers to establish a lenient policy toward employees who serve as volunteers on the squad and allow these employees’ timeoff to answer a first aid call.

According to Mr. Obert, speeches in front of various civic and business groups, as well as repeated mailings to business, have brought no increased cooperation from employers.

Mr. Kauffman a few weeks ago suggested the possibility of a hospital takeover of First Aid Squad services.

“But this is really not the answer, because the hospital would have to charge the patient for the transportation services. The cost probably would be quite high and is not usually covered by insurance.

“Once again, the answer is to have the towns finance fulltime first aid people for daytime coverage. The community deserves more than what it is presently receiving,” Mr. Kauffman said last week.

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