Ambulance contract still on hold
Citizen groups, council members seek more information on Fulop proposal
by Al Sullivan
Reporter staff writer
Jan 12, 2014 | 7790 views | 8 8 comments | 149 149 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MANY QUESTIONS REMAIN – Citizens groups are raising questions about the awarding of the ambulance contract.
MANY QUESTIONS REMAIN – Citizens groups are raising questions about the awarding of the ambulance contract.
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The City Council has voted to continue the existing ambulance contract with Jersey City Medical Center for another month, and some local groups are asking for additional information about the original proposal to award a three-year contract to McCabe Ambulance of Bayonne.

Mayor Steve Fulop, based on the recommendation of a review committee, asked the City Council to award the contract to McCabe on Dec. 18, but withdrew the request amid a public outcry – and amid questions from at least two council members.

Councilman Richard Boggiano said he found out about the recommendation from a newspaper report a few days before the council was scheduled to vote on the matter in December.

The contract was to start on Jan. 1, but the mayor’s office withdrew the request just prior to the Dec. 18 meeting.

“We didn’t have enough time to review it,” Boggiano said.

Although some feared the matter would appear on the agenda for the Jan. 15 meeting, Boggiano said it will not – and better not be.

“I still have questions about how McCabe was selected,” he said.

Recently community leaders and members of Beacon of Light asked JCMC and CarePoint/McCabe to attend a community forum regarding the contract.

JCMC has held the contract for more than 100 years and is hoping to keep it.

McCabe declines to appear at citizens’ forum

A Dec. 26 letter authored by residents Brigid D’Souza, Yoo Lee, and Matt Schoenfeld to Mayor Fulop outlined a number of concerns about the process of selecting McCabe over JCMC.

“We are a group of concerned citizens and have endeavored to research, compile, and synthesize the facts as we understand them,” their letter said. “EMS is a critical component of our local healthcare system and our existing provider, JCMC EMS, is a nationally recognized model for EMS. As such, we feel the public should have reasonable assurances that any change in that service provider is justified and reasonable. Further, we feel the public should be afforded the opportunity to question and challenge the city’s decision-making processes if those processes appear to be inconsistent, non-transparent, or poorly communicated by the city to the public.”

The group held a forum on the change. But McCabe declined to attend the event.
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“We didn’t have enough time to review it.” – Councilman Richard Boggiano
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“It is gratifying to see the high level of community interest in an issue of such great importance to the residents of Jersey City,” Mickey McCabe said in a letter to the group. “While we greatly appreciate your invitation, we must decline. We have been participating in the process outlined by the city government, including a Request for Proposal Submission, an interview with the Mayor’s Review Committee, and an appearance before the City Council members at their recent caucus session. We also look forward to the council’s upcoming full public meeting at which we will happily answer all questions.”

He said McCabe Ambulance has been providing ambulance services in Hudson County for more than 40 years and has been the exclusive provider of 9-1-1 ambulance service for the city of Bayonne since the early 1980s.

“Indeed, for years, we have served as backup to JCMC EMS in Jersey City and have the utmost respect for all the hard-working, dedicated employees currently employed by JCMC EMS,” he said. “We know Jersey City and understand its EMS needs, and stand ready to serve the people of this community. As the locally-owned and operated ambulance provider, we know we can provide professional, efficient, comprehensive life-saving ambulance services to all Jersey City residents, and we can do so without the $4 million annual payment Jersey City taxpayers have been paying the Barnabas Medical Center for years.” Barnabas and JCMC have a cooperative agreement.

Campaign donations to Fulop

CarePoint Healthcare, which owns three for-profit hospitals in Hudson County – Bayonne Medical Center, Hoboken University Medical Center and Christ Hospital in Jersey City – has put its financial resources behind McCabe’s competition with JCMC.

Some claim JCMC ambulances have been taking patients to JCMC rather than to the nearest hospital – which sometimes is Christ Hospital. Since emergency room services are a potential significant revenue stream for the for-profit hospitals, it is in Carepoint’s financial interest to back McCabe.

But Critics have raised some serious questions as to how the mayor’s evaluation committee selected McCabe over JCMC, and whether or not the committee gave too much weight to the financial benefit McCabe’s contract offered over other factors in which JCMC excelled.

Critics also questioned political donations made to Mayor Fulop and his slate of council candidates prior to the last election by former U.S. Sen. Robert Torricelli, who serves as a lobbyist for CarePoint.

Torricelli, who was instrumental in helping the purchase of the CarePoint Hospitals, donated $5,000 to Fulop, and $2,500 to the Fulop team.

While McCabe said he had not contributed to the Fulop campaign and thus didn’t violate the city’s pay-to-play regulations, some question whether or not Torricelli’s contributions were a means of getting around those regulations.

A lot of unanswered questions

The request for proposals was posted by the city on Sept. 27, 2013. McCabe and JCMC submitted bids.

JCMC had performed the ambulance service at no cost to the city from 1998 to 2005. (Patients still got charged, as is standard.) But fiscal problems prompted the not-for-profit hospital to charge about $4 million per year starting in 2006.

The financing not only helped save the service, but allowed JCMC to make upgrades, modernizing its fleet with new technology, as well as to provide new buildings, additional training and other changes.

JCMC and others point out that JCMC has received state and national recognition as well as key accreditation for its services.

One of the central issues in awarding the contract to McCabe involves McCabe’s willingness to reimburse the city about $2.6 million for use of the Fire Department as first responders. The bid specifications gave the bidder the option to pay the cost of the Fire Department or supply their own first responders. JCMC decided to provide its own.

While the committee that selected McCabe said the decision was not based on financial considerations solely, the city stands to gain more from the McCabe offer than JCMC’s even though both have offered to provide the service for free.

If the decision was based on the ability to provide the service, then critics say JCMC appears to have better credentials, and the advanced technology that McCabe currently does not. JCMC also currently has a fleet of vehicles necessary to do the job, while McCabe would need to purchase more.

Some critics have even questioned why McCabe, which operated its ambulance service in Secaucus in connection with Meadowlands Hospital, was terminated by that hospital. McCabe said Meadowlands Hospital opted to provide their own service in order to collect the additional revenue associated with transport of patients. At the time, McCabe was providing that service for free.

Boggiano said he still needed more information and was seeking a number of answers to critical questions, especially regarding the committee’s recommendations since JCMC scored higher overall in the bid process except in the area of finance.

The council is expected to take up the matter later in January, although it is unclear if the contract will be awarded.

Al Sullivan may be reached at asullivan@hudsonreporter.com.

Comments
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mrfaisel34
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January 13, 2014
It all comes down to what's best for Jersey City. Clearly, the status quo is not. I choose my words very carefully: JCMC EMS is corrupted.

My friend been harassed all week by JCMC EMS because of my efforts to get the city to deny its contract: stalked, followed and hacked to name a few.

Mayor Fulop, this monopoly needs to end now. Jersey City is being price gouged. And you JCMC EMS supporters need to wake-up to this fact.
Hamiltonpkmom
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January 14, 2014
What is best for Jersey City and us residents is clearly JCMC.

CarePoint:

*Predatory practices in Bayonne hospital making it one of the most expensive hospitals in US.

*Bayonne, Chris, and Hoboken hospitals: out of the network for major insurances, including my own Oxford.

*Denied by NJ Attorney General's office for it's application for Managed Care Organization Contract for CarePoint's continuing pattern of misrepresentation to state agencies about its readiness, its competencies, its corporate ownership and its failure to accept responsibility for prior misrepresentation: All of which are on record.

McCabe EMS Service:

*Failure to adequately and properly house the min. 2 feet ambulances in Secaucaus.

*Failure to respond to under 8 min. response time required by the contract .

The above two reasons resulted in termination of Secaucus EMS contract just under 3 months in.

You can drum up hearsay but you cannot distort the numbers and truth.
emsguy
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January 13, 2014
The JCMC is trying to blame CarePoint for the same things they they have been doing, using EMS to make a buck. Now that there is competition and they lost, they will try every trick in the book to keep the contract. There own policy has been passive aggressive in transporting people to their hospital. Maybe if their CEO had a better relationship with the city government things might go a little different. Threatening the city is not a way to win back in.
mrfaisel34
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January 13, 2014
You stated it exactly. I hope they don't try to come after you, like they are doing me.
Hamiltonpkmom
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January 14, 2014
"Maybe if their CEO had a better relationship with the city government things might go a little different."

On the contrary. the RFP bidding process might not have been legal and with Office of Inspector General now having to determine if the law was broken in bidding process, things remain to be seen.

CivicParent
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January 13, 2014
Slight correction: SaveOurEMS.org hosted the forum, not the 3 parents who penned the letter (which you can read here: http://civicparent.org/2013/12/26/an-open-letter-to-mayor-fulop-and-the-city-council-of-jersey-city-regarding-basic-life-support-bls-ems-contract/).

What continues to trouble me with all of this is the near-complete silence from City Hall despite a complicated issue that many members of the public care about, and that begs for clear communications from city leaders. The questions in the concerned citizens letter are reasonable (I helped write it so I'm biased, but I would challenge anyone to point out any unreasonable questions that we asked). I just don't understand the radio silence on this from the city; a press release, a town hall, something to inform and clarify.
mrfaisel34
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January 13, 2014
Jersey City Medical Center was totally unprepared for the bidding competition. They were blindsided by the McCabe's under-bidding their proposal. So much so that the Office of Inspector General (OIG) was quickly pegged to investigate the legitimacy of the bidding process. JCMC lawyers are intimating that McCabe's reimbursement to the City may be a violation of the state kickback laws.

The argument is a weak one, because McCabe's proposal stated upfront it would pay for JCFD help, if needed. Kickbacks are usually the result of duress and/or a secret agreement. Are JCMC lawyers suggesting that JCFD or possibly the City made a secret agreement? Or, is this just a stalling tactic of JCMC due to their pangs of entitlement? The latter seems more plausible.
Hamiltonpkmom
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January 13, 2014
Quite on the contrary. Having read the RFP and proposals from both JCMC and CarePoint, JCMC's proposals were quite detailed, precise and effective while CarePoint's were vague and sections of the proposals were copied word for word from RFP. It's shocking that 5 judging panels were so flawed in it's grading system that it landed it's favor in CarePoint. You say intimidation, I say fairness was not at a play since Jersey City asked for two options on RFP: one for reimbursement and another option for covering all first responder service which JCMC chose latter. If that was the case, the grading system should have been the same since both options were on the table.

Hopefully, OIG will make its decision in favor of JCMC. Not one resident who is doesn't have special interest to CarePoint/ McCabe wants this change. There has only be outcry in support of JCMC and will continue to be this case.