Lifemobile switch angers Hopewell

The Princeton Packet

18 April, 1986 (~estimated)

Lifemobile switch angers Hopewell 

By Sally Lane and Joseph Dee
Staff Writers

HOPEWELL TOWNSHIP — For several weeks, area leaders and rescue squad members have lobbied for a mobile intensive care unit to be moved back from West Windsor to its original location at the Medical Center at Princeton. 

But not everyone will be satisfied if the unit is returned to the medical center.

Contending that the director of the county MICU program promised to locate a lifemobile — as the vehicles are known — closer to this 60-square-mile township, officials may sue Dr. L. Barry Ultan, the program’s director, if he fails to keep his promise. 

“A lawsuit is a remedy we have. But we think the proper thing to do is to try to work it out,” Mayor Richard Van Noy said. “But if not, by God, we’ll see them in court.” 

Dr. Ultan told township officials last summer that a lifemobile would be stationed at either Johnson Park, near the Princeton Township border, or the Helene Fuld campus in Pennington on Route 31, according to Hopewell officials. 

“We thought everything was hunky-dory and then we read in the papers that the unit was never at Johnson Park. It was always at the Medical Center at Princeton,” said James Davy, township administrator. 

“It sounds to me that he (Dr. Ultan) was trying to sell us a bill of goods to get our support, and then he turned around and betrayed us. Never once did he advise us of these changes,” Mr. Davy said. 

Repeated attempts to reach Dr. Ultan Thursday were unsuccessful. The unit in question was stationed at the Medical Center at Princeton instead, officials here learned recently. 

Township officials discovered the lifemobile’s location after the unit was moved from the medical center to the Princeton Junction Volunteer Fire Co. building in West Windsor. 

Lifemobiles — non-transport vehicles carrying advanced lifesaving equipment — are stationed in Hamilton Township and at the Helene Fuld Medical Center in Trenton as well. 

Seeking more room for its crew members and a central location, MICU officials moved the Princeton unit on March 17 to West Windsor. The unit was located at the Valley Road administration building in Princeton Township for six weeks prior to the move. 

Contending that the move left the northern part of the county without adequate advanced lifesaving services, area officials and rescue squad members fought to have the lifemobile returned to the center.

And within a week after the move, the unit was returned — being stationed at the center between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. each day — according to Betty Bonney, director of public relations for Helene Fuld.

But Princeton Medical Center officials could not confirm that the unit was stationed there for four hours each day. 

“We really don’t know — they go out on calls and we really can’t keep track of them,” said Jane Kerney, the medical center’s director of public relations. 

But several local officials and squad members were dissatisfied with the 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. arrangement. 

“You can’t judge what time you’re going to need it (the MICU),” said Peggy Harris. captain of the Rocky Hill First Aid Squad.

“When you have a heart attack, you don’t know what time of night you’re going to have it,” she said. 

Mayor Van Noy agreed. 

“I’m not going to say to the people of Hopewell that they can only die between the hours of 11 and 3 — that’s absurd. The thing that galls me is that we’re supposed to be responsible adults. He (Dr. Ultan) promised us that it (the unit) would be here,” the mayor said. 

Helene Fuld and medical center officials met Tuesday to discuss returning the unit to the medical center on a full-time basis, Ms. Bonney said. No conclusions were reached, however, with the unit still being stationed for the greater part of the day in West Windsor, she said. 

Helene Fuld officials are also in the process of applying for a fourth lifemobile that would be stationed somewhere in the northern part of the county, Ms. Bonney said. 

But it could take several months for the state Department of Health — office of Emergency Health Services — to approve the application, according to a spokeswoman there. 

Even if Helene Fuld was able to show a need for a fourth lifemobile, it could be turned down if the state cap — limiting the amount of money that can be spent on MICU programs — has already been met, the spokeswoman said. 

In the meantime, officials here hope to reach an agreement with Dr. Ultan out of court.

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