The new rig, which cost $137,000, is the latest ambulance to join the town's emergency medical services since last year. It is needed to better help serve North Bergen's bustling population, as well as Guttenberg when needed, officials said.
Town EMTs currently use two of the fleet ambulances 24/7. Eight months ago, they added a third ambulance that runs 12 hours a day, seven days per week.
911 calls sent to local responders
Though North Bergen is home to the Palisades Medical Center on River Road, all medical 911 calls in town go to local responders.
They respond to around 8,000 calls annually. If all town ambulances are too busy to respond to an emergency, dispatchers will then request assistance from EMT's in neighboring towns such as Union City, West New York, and Weehawken.
“It's depending on where the call is needed for,” said Mike DeOrio, North Bergen's deputy director of public safety. “If it's a patient downtown, we're going to call Union City first. If it's uptown, we're going to call West New York first.”
For emergency calls, such as someone suffering from a heart attack, North Bergen responders will take patients to the closest hospital. Responders also take non-emergency patients, such as those vomiting, to the closest hospital first.
For trauma calls, such as shooting or car crash victims, responders will take patients to either Jersey City Medical Center or Hackensack Meridian Health Center in Hackensack. Stroke victims go to specialized hospitals, such as Palisades, Christ Hospital in Jersey City, or the Hoboken University Medical Center.
The EMT's take all rape victims to Christ Hospital.
“We work very closely with all the towns,” EMS Chief Frank Travisano said.
That agreement isn't one sided—if those towns request ambulance assistance from North Bergen, they happily oblige, officials said.
North Bergen's EMS program operates at a profit, and takes whatever medical insurance residents have, and does not bill any uninsured residents. The town uses a third-party billing agency.
“Even with that, we still operate in the plus,” DeOrio said. “That buys us more equipment.”
The town has included costs for another ambulance in its capital budget to replace a previously broken down one, according to Public Safety Commissioner Allen Pascual.
“In snowstorms, we have very few incidents where we get stuck with our ambulances.” – Mike DeOrio
The new ambulance is larger in the back, to allow for easier patient treatment, according to Travisano. These are known as Type 1 ambulances.
The debuting vehicle also has a four-wheel drive, to better deal with North Bergen’s notorious topography. “With the hills in North Bergen, you need four-wheel drive trucks,” Travisano said. “We have two that we always keep as four-wheel drive trucks. It makes it a lot easier in the winter.”
“There's a lot of wear and tear on these vehicles,” added DeOrio. “In snowstorms, we have very few incidents where we get stuck with our ambulances.”
By summertime, the town is set to receive another Type 1 ambulance, DeOrio said. Currently, the other ambulances are known as Type 3, smaller and better suited for tight curbs.
Type 1 ambulances are more difficult to park in the EMS garage than Type 3 ambulances, DeOrio said.
New rear camera
In 2016, officials installed dashboard cameras in all the ambulances to monitor and record drivers and passengers, and the driver's view of the road. They also use another camera for patients which does not record, due to HIPAA (federal privacy) rules.
The cameras can also capture drivers' speeds, whether they're using sirens, and see whether or not they're doing things they shouldn't, such as using cell phones while driving. They also record any hard turns and North Bergen police can use the recordings if needed, to investigate car accidents.
The new ambulance does not yet have the dashboard cameras. However, it has a rear camera that activates whenever the driver backs up. This is due to its larger size making it more challenging to see the back.
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