25 March, 1986 (~estimated)
Montgomery faces need for lifemobile unit
By Mary Otto and Sally Lane
MONTGOMERY — A half-hour wait for a lifemobile at the scene of a fatal accident this week has made a point to Montgomery emergency workers: The township needs to find a new source of mobile intensive care service.
Though located in Somerset County, the township has by agreement relied on the Princeton lifemobile for nearly a decade. But the lifemobile was moved to new quarters in West Windsor last week, and the new arrangement is sure to cause deadly delays, according to local police, rescue squad worker, and firefighters.
“The situation arose that we needed a lifemobile and we couldn’t get one,” said Kitsic Hillaire, captain of the Montgomery Township Rescue Squad.
Mrs. Hillaire called the move of the lifemobile “a real tragedy for us. Five minutes in paramedics’ language is a long time.”
The survival rate of cardiac arrest victims drops from 43 percent to 10 percent when the mobile intensive care unit takes 16 minutes instead of minutes to respond to the scene, she said.
At a Thursday night meeting, the heads of the township’s emergency services were in agreement — some alternative to the West Windsor-based county lifemobile should be found for Montgomery. It was agreed that a lifemobile now might take 45 crucial minutes to fight its way through rush hour traffic on Route 1 and to Montgomery.
The possibility of obtaining an agreement with the Somerset Medical Center for service from that county’s single lifemobile is one alternative now being mulled by township emergency services. The possibility of Somerset County obtaining a second lifemobile is another.
The Middlesex County lifemobile based in the Kingston Fire House is a third possibility.
The best idea of all, according to Mrs. Hillaire, would be to reinstitute a Hopewell-based paramedic team and lifemobile.
In the past, a group of volunteer paramedics operated out of the Hopewell firehouse. But with new state standards governing accreditation, the fully-trained volunteers were eventually forced out of action by paid professional paramedics now controlled from the Helene Fuld Medical Center in Trenton.
A Monday morning accident on Route 518, which took the life of 34-year-old Judith Ambrose, was a prime topic of discussion at the emergency services meeting.
“We’ve got a first aid squad. Couldn’t they handle it?” asked Fire Commissioner Fred Loesser.
“For one woman, the lifemobile was necessary,” answered Rescue Squad President Sally Piller.
Montgomery Rescue Squad members, aided by members of the Hopewell Fire and Rescue Squad, were successful in saving the life of severely injured Irena Wolinski, who was pinned inside the wreckage of her van.
“We had no problem when the paramedics were working out of Princeton,” observed Montgomery Police Lt. William Beachell.
During the first three months of the year, the township required paramedic assistance 20 times, according to Mrs. Hillaire.
In a telephone interview Thursday, Edwin Oben of the Princeton First Aid Squad said, “The way to improve the lifemobile program is to add more units. I think the Princeton area needs a unit to serve Hopewell, Pennington, Princeton, and Montgomery.”
Helene Fuld supervises Mercer County’s three mobile intensive care units, which are based in West Windsor, Hamilton, and Trenton. The lifemobiles are non-transport units which accompany an ambulance to the scene of an emergency. They carry medicine, advanced lift support equipment, and a paramedic team. Although Montgomery is in Somerset County, it relies upon Princeton Medical Center and Princeton lifemobile services because it is closer to Princeton than to Somerville.
“We called for the paramedics in West Windsor and were told they were on a run to Freehold,” Montgomery Police Lt. Larry Embrey said Monday after the accident. “We were advised the next paramedics were in Trenton.”
After the call went out, police said they waited 30 minutes for the Trenton paramedics, then received a call from the Trenton lifemobile requesting directions to the accident.
The lifemobile arrived soon afterward.
Already at the scene was the Hopewell Fire and Rescue Squad, and a backup unit of the Montgomery Rescue Squad. The regular Montgomery unit had been dispatched just moments earlier to an accident on Route 206 where five people sustained minor injuries.
Rescuers worked for an hour at the Route 518 scene to free the driver of a station wagon, Mrs. Ambrose of Belle Mead, and Mrs. Wolinski, the driver of a van, from their vehicles.
Mrs. Ambrose showed no signs of life, according to the police. Mrs. Wolinski’s vital signs had ceased, but she was revived by rescuers. She suffered severe trauma to her lower jaw and neck and is now in serious condition.
Three other passengers, Mrs. Ambrose’s 18-month-old child, Mrs. Wolinski’s husband, and another passenger, were all hospitalized.
Betty Bonney, director of public relations at Helene Fuld, said the Trenton lifemobile arrived in 20 minutes at the scene. She explained that at the time the Montgomery police called the West Windsor-based lifemobile, it was on call in East Windsor. The East Windsor patient requested to be taken to a Freehold hospital.
“They have an obligation to go to whatever hospital the patient requests,” said Ms. Bonney. The lifemobile must accompany the ambulance to the hospital.
If paramedics cannot talk the patient out of leaving the county, they will alert a fellow unit that they are leaving the area, Ms. Bonney said.
On Monday, the Trenton-based lifemobile was dispatched from Helene Fuld to the Route 518 accident, in the absence of the West Windsor unit.
The accident occurred only moments after another accident in which five people were injured on Route 206, according to Montgomery Police Lt. Larry Embrey.
The Montgomery Rescue Squad answered the call to the first accident. All five were transported to Princeton Medical Center in one ambulance, according to Lt. Embrey.