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Paramedics Unhappy with Director, System

JERSEY CITY, N.J. -- A group of paramedics says the Jersey City Medical Center's director of emergency medical services is driving the city's ambulance corps into the ground.

The Hudson County Association of EMS Professionals announced a motion of "no confidence" in Director Christopher Rinn in a recent letter to The Jersey Journal.

The fraternal organization, which has more than 100 members, says that under Rinn's leadership, JCMC's emergency medical services have been weakened by a system that prioritizes more lucrative non-emergency calls, such as transporting patients from the hospital to nursing homes.

Michael Alessi, a JCMC paramedic since 1977 and secretary/treasurer of the group, said that such calls, as well as a computer system that directs ambulances to areas where emergencies occur frequently, rob responders of flexibility.

For example, he said, ambulances had to be called in from Newark during a severe fire on St. Pauls Avenue on Mother's Day.

"There isn't room in the system for what we call 'surge capacity,' or out-of-the-ordinary incidents," he said.

Alessi added that sitting in vehicles at street corners for entire 12-hour shifts takes a "tremendous toll" on emergency responders and drains morale.

But hospital officials say that the Mobile Area Routing Vehicle Location Information System (MARVELIS), the system the paramedics are criticizing, has cut response times dramatically.

"Senior management has looked at the allegations and has come down solely on the side of Director Rinn," said John McKeegan, spokesman for Liberty Health Systems, which operates JCMC, adding that the system is "widely recognized as among the best practices" in the country.

"It prioritizes all calls based on whether they are life-threatening," he said. "This system seems to work."

Alessi countered that the statistics boasted by JCMC are old and don't take into account units that have recently been shut down. He said he submitted the complaints to Liberty Health CEO Joseph Scott two weeks ago but has not received a response.

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