CAMDEN, N.J. - Some emergency medical services in South Jersey are operating in crisis mode and the Professional Firefighters Association of New Jersey says it’s due to a surge in call volume and a major staffing shortage. James Lyons, the 4th District Vice President with the association says the current status of emergency medical services needs attention. Now.
"If you’re in crisis mode, or somebody’s in cardiac arrest, you need people there right away," Lyons remarked.
Lyons is concerned it’s in jeopardy. Currently, EMS in New Jersey is not considered an essential service. While some municipalities, like Cherry Hill, have career EMS staff at the fire department, others may outsource from a private company, which often includes part-time workers.
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But, Lyons says that’s becoming an issue when there’s a staffing shortage industry-wide and call volume is high. It means certain towns can’t staff an ambulance, so a neighboring one needs to step in.
"They always will say yes and will help, but it’s taxing. It’s taxing on everybody," Lyons explained. "As long as the ambulance shows up at the house, sometimes, people are like that’s all they’re worrying about, but is it the right ambulance? You are waiting an increased amount of time."
Speaking of wait times, Lyons says the staffing shortages grappling hospitals is leading to a much longer turnaround time when transferring a patient from an ambulance to the hospital.
"They may be at the hospital 45 minutes or 30 minutes or it could be longer and now that’s taking that resource away from that community," Lyons described.
He says they are scheduled to meet with state legislators next week, a first big step.
"Everybody has to sit at the table and have the conversation. It’s not going away," Lyons added.