Plan to shift control of ambulances in Camden to Cooper advances in NJ

 Democratic Party leader George E. Norcross III, left, stands with New Jersey Assemblyman Gilbert L.

Democratic Party leader George E. Norcross III, left, stands with New Jersey Assemblyman Gilbert L. "Whip" Wilson, D-Camden, at a gathering waiting to hear President Barack Obama last month in Camden. Wilson has sponsored a bill to shift control of ambulance services in Camden to Cooper University Hospital, chaired by Norcross.(Mel Evans/AP Photo)

Committees in both houses of the New Jersey legislature have advanced a measure to shift control of ambulance services in Camden.

Marlton-based Virtua Health System would be replaced by Cooper University Hospital, chaired by Democratic political power broker George Norcross.

The chief operating officer of MONOC, the state’s largest provider of paramedic services, is questioning why the legislation is being fast-tracked before lawmakers’ summer break.

“Why are we moving so quickly with this bill,” asked Jeff Behm. “I think it’s important to remember that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few  — or the one.”

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Sen. Diane Allen voiced concerns about the process for changing control of the emergency ambulance services.

“Usually, when we have these kinds of situations, a certificate of need is dealt with through the Department of Health,” said Allen, R-Burlington. “Why are we not going that route?”

Scott Kasper,  Virtua’s assistant vice president for emergency services and vice chairman of the New Jersey EMS Council, said the proposed change is unwarranted.

“We have outstanding relationships with folks at every level of the public health and public safety structure within that city,” he said. “To simply make a change where there is not a demonstrated need for that change to happen is a mistake.”

Assemblyman Gilbert “Whip” Wilson, the bill’s main sponsor, said Cooper is better able to provide follow-up care for patients.

“By having people checked on who’ve been to the emergency ward already, make sure they’re doing the right thing, this will really help costs and also have an effect on our charity care,” said Wilson, D-Camden.

Wilson says giving Cooper control of basic and advanced life support services in Camden would put it line with other level-one trauma centers.

Cooper now provides ambulances and Virtua  provides paramedics.

The measure could be voted on by the entire Legislature later this month.

The Asssociated Press contributed to this report.

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