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Vitale/Sweeney Legislation Revamping NJ’S Emergency Medical Services System Clears Senate

Returning members of the State Senate are sworn in

TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Joseph F. Vitale and Senate President Steve Sweeney that would revamp the emergency medical services system in New Jersey was approved yesterday by the full Senate.

“From decreasing response times to providing greater efficiency and reducing costs, this legislation will bring common-sense reforms to New Jersey’s emergency care,” said Senator Vitale, D-Middlesex. “By centralizing oversight and review of EMS services and personnel, the state will gain a better understanding of where we might need to shift resources and attention to ensure quality emergency transport care for all New Jerseyans, which in turn, could be critical to saving someone’s life.”

“Having one unanswered 9-1-1 call in the state is one too many,” said Senate President Sweeney, D- Gloucester, Cumberland and Salem. “Prior to centralizing EMS services in Gloucester County, unanswered calls topped 800 in one year. That is simply unacceptable. Now we have response times that are lower than the national average. With this legislation, we can bring this type of quality and efficient care to all communities in the Garden State.”

The bill, S-1650, would require that, under the direction of the Commissioner of Health and Senior Services, the Office of Emergency Medical Services in the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) would serve as the lead state agency for oversight of emergency medical services delivery in New Jersey. DHSS would also ensure the continuous and timely statewide availability and dispatch of basic life support and advanced life support to all New Jersey residents through ground and air, adult and pediatric triage, treatment and transport, and emergency response capability.

The bill would require paramedics, EMTs and emergency responders to be licensed by DHSS and to undergo a criminal history record background check as a condition of licensure. Additionally, DHSS would be required to make a current list of licensed paramedics and EMTs available to the public on its Internet website.

The bill was approved by the Senate with a vote of 22-16. It now heads to the Assembly.

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