Mayor Steven Fulop announced Friday that the administration will recommend to the City Council next week that CarePoint Health System and McCabe Ambulance take over the city's emergency ambulance services. Fulop said the move will save taxpayers $6.5 million annually, while also increasing health care options for residents.
However, Jersey City Medical Center, which has had the contract for 130 years, has disputed some of the numbers and protested the impending recommendation.
“Saving taxpayer dollars while improving public safety and public health is a priority for our administration,” said Mayor Fulop on Friday. “The winning ambulance provider will do both – by reimbursing the city its costs to provide first responder services and by offering patients the option to choose the hospital they want to be transported to when their issue is of a non-life threatening nature.”
The last ambulance contract was awarded in 2009, and the only bidder at that time was the Jersey City Medical Center. For the service, the city has been paying on average $3.8 million per year. This year, the city paid $3.9 million. The new contract is for three years, with two one-year renewal options.
CarePoint Health System/McCabe Ambulance will reimburse the city $2.6 million annually for the cost of using Jersey City firefighters as first responders for any calls to which they cannot respond in a timely manner.
According to the city press release, in its bid for the contract, Jersey City Medical Center offered a zero dollar contract and suggested using some volunteer EMTs instead of full-time Jersey City first responders (JCMC disputes the part about the EMTs). According to the City Hall press release, analysis showed that during November 2013 there were 69 emergency calls requiring ambulance service to which the Jersey City Medical Center was unable to respond within eight minutes.
The release also claims that from Jan. 1, 2013 through Sept. 30th, 2013, Jersey City Medical Center was unable to respond at all to 121 calls for ambulance service.
“We made the right choice for the taxpayers of Jersey City and equally important we made the right choice for anybody who needs transportation to the hospital,” said Mayor Fulop. “This ensures Jersey City residents will receive the highest quality of emergency healthcare.”
McCabe is backed by the CarePoint Health network, which owns three for-profit hospitals in Hudson County, including Christ Hospital in Jersey City, Bayonne Medical Center, and Hoboken University Medical Center.
McCabe Ambulance, has done business in Bayonne for more than 40 years.
Jersey City Medical Center responded in a statement.
“We are extremely disappointed in the City’s decision not to renew its contract for EMS services with the Jersey City Medical Center," said a spokesman. “Instead of continuing to trust the lives of its residents with a proven nationally recognized EMS provider, this administration has decided to take its chances with an unproven, untested EMS provider associated with a for-profit hospital system from outside of Jersey City. The Jersey City Medical Center operates one of the best EMS systems in the country, and has won numerous awards for innovation, training and nationally recognized response times. It has been featured in industry magazines, newspapers and on television as an industry leader.
“Jersey City residents will be reaping the consequences of today’s decision for years to come in terms of unreliable response times, an unproven level of healthcare services provided, and the transportation fees associated with a for-profit EMS provider," claimed JCMC. "CarePoint and McCabe are for-profit organizations which are out of network with most insurance providers. We know this will be a disservice to the public. The out-of-network models allows hospitals to bill extremely high rates and patients must enter through the emergency department. We are making plans where citizens requiring an ambulance will be able to contact the Jersey City Medical Center directly and will be able to have the excellent services they have been known to expect without fear of high bills and as always still be able to go to the hospital of their choice."
JCMC added, “It’s also important to note that the city’s press release inaccurately states that the JCMC’s bid to provide EMS services to the city at no cost included a provision where we would use 'volunteer EMTs' as first responders. That suggestion is completely false and is indicative of a flawed and poorly managed municipal RFP process.
"The JCMC EMS has been proudly serving, and saving the lives of Jersey City residents for the last 130 years. Our average 6-minute response time is one of the best of any mid-sized city in the country, we provide twice the number of advanced life support paramedics than required by state law and patients on our ambulances are 45 percent more likely than the national average to be revived after all vital signs have ceased.
“We hope that the thousands of Jersey City residents who were kind enough to support the JCMC contract throughout this RFP process, those who know and used the ambulance services, will consider attending next Wednesday’s City Council meeting to let their opinions on the city’s decision be known.”
Mickey McCabe, owner of McCabe Ambulance, said he has been getting ready to begin the service in two weeks.
"We’ve been working on this for six weeks in anticipation of getting the contract,” he said.
Joseph Krajnik, President of Local 1066 firefighters' union, said in response to the possibility of using EMT's over firefighters, “Since 1991, Jersey City firefighters have been serving as first responders to assist the citizens of Jersey City in all types of medical emergencies. Since this program was instituted, their efforts and hands on attention in a timely fashion – prior to any EMS response – has saved countless lives. Further, our firefighters have always continued to assist the EMS upon arrival in said care. This response has assured the citizens of Jersey City excellent medical attention prior to transportation to a medical facility. This is key to the success of saving lives, and should be part of any emergency response.”