23 April, 1986 (~estimated)
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
Volunteer rescuers services are free
To the editor,
I am writing to you on behalf of the Pennington First Aid Squad. Several weeks ago, while performing a routine transport from Princeton Medical Center to Pennington, I witnessed an incident that caused me a good deal of concern. As one of the primary sources of information for people in the Mercer County area, I think you may also be interested.
Approximately three blocks from PMC we noticed a woman lying on the ground, obviously in some distress. Naturally, we stopped the ambulance, got out, and asked if we could be of assistance. Despite the fact that she was bleeding profusely from a facial laceration, a broken nose, and some damage to her teeth, she initially refused our aid.
The reason for her refusal was that she couldn’t afford $380 to pay us for our service. It took several minutes to reassure her that we are a volunteer squad and do not charge anyone for our services. She then allowed us to treat her and transport her to the medical center.
I’m sure members of the volunteer first aid and rescue squads in the Mercer County area would find this incident particularly troubling. It demonstrates a misunderstanding on the part of the citizens of our communities as to what their resources are when they need emergency medical assistance. It is obvious that all of the publicity concerning the county Mobile Intensive Care Unit operating out of Helene Fuld Medical Center and the charge for its use has made at least a part of the public reluctant to call for help when they need it.
We would like to clarify this situation. Most of Mercer County is still served by volunteer first aid squads that are more than happy to help the members of their communities free of charge. The dispatcher who received the call will dispatch both the local volunteer first aid squad and a MICU vehicle only when the problem is life-threatening. Even when this occurs, the patient has a right to refuse the services of the lifemobile unit when it arrives and is under no obligation to pay for any charge.
We are also concerned that failure to call for immediate help may result in the worsening of some conditions. For example, a patient suffering from chest pains may be tempted to ask a family member to drive him to the hospital in order to avoid being charged for an ambulance. This situation is particularly dangerous in that the patient does not receive medical attention as soon as possible, and the driver presents a hazard on the road due to the stress he is under.
First aid squad members have been trained to handle these situations. If the patient’s condition is stable, he will be provided appropriate medical care, along with safe transportation to the medical facility of his choice. If his condition is more serious, he has the option of calling for a lifemobile with the advanced life support services it has at its disposal. In either case, the patient has received the prompt medical assistance needed.
I know I speak for most of the first aid and rescue squads in this area in asking you to help us present this information to the public. Our members are residents of the community they serve, and they donate a good deal of their time to keeping their skills up to date and being available to provide this valuable service. We are deeply troubled if even one person does not receive needed medical care as a result of a misunderstanding about what is available to him free of charge.
By Patricia Kazimir,
Pennington First Aid Squad