New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie conditionally vetoed a bill that would have overhauled the New Jersey EMS system. In the process, however, he’s asked the commissioner of Health and Senior Services to review the state’s EMS operations.
The hotly debated legislation, first introduced in February 2010, was the result of a report that labeled the state’s EMS system as broken. Heading into the holidays, the state’s Senate passed bill A2095, which, if approved by Christie, would set new standards on ambulance staffing, training and overall operational oversight throughout the state.
In releasing the veto, Christie says that while the bill was “well-intentioned,” but he had been advised it would cost the state and municipalities “millions of dollars.”
The legislation sharply divided EMS providers in the state.
Critics of the bill, led by the New Jersey State First Aid Council (NJSFAC), an organization representing 325 volunteer squads in the state, maintain it will cost tens of millions to implement the changes, add red tape and put volunteers out of business.
In a letter sent to newspapers, NJSFAC President Barbara Aras maintained that passing the bill would “spell disaster for the state’s EMS system.” She noted residents would end up paying for services they now get for free through volunteer squads.
Proponents, however, argued the legislation would bring much-needed change to the way EMS operates in New Jersey and ultimately help patients by implementing performance standards and requiring a minimum of one EMT on each ambulance.
“By issuing a conditional veto, I believe that he is acknowledging that there are indeed problems with the current delivery model of EMS in New Jersey,” says Michael Bascom, the emergency management coordinator for Neptune, NJ and Monmouth County. “The legislation passed both houses of the legislature and has made it into the press. Both the governor and commissioner have had this placed front and center on their respective desks. The need for a single standard of care is not going to diminish. The ever expanding EMS Scope of Practice for providers of all levels requires medical oversight and accountability to our patients.”
Bascom says the legislation will ultimately pass because it’s the right things for patients.
Christie asked the commissioner to “develop findings and recommendations” on how New Jersey can “effectively upgrade our EMS delivery system” and to report back within six months.
“Any changes to our emergency medical services system raise important issues that should be responsibly and carefully considered,” Christie said.