East Brunswick to decide on outside EMS

By Michael Nunes

EAST BRUNSWICK – The township is due to make a decision on contracting an outside EMS to help The East Brunswick Volunteer Squad.

“The volunteer service has served East Brunswick well for decades, but we have to make sure we have coverage. Right now we’re taken care of, but in the future we need to make sure we have trucks able to respond to calls from our residents,” Council President Michael Hughes said.

The township is awaiting the results of a Request for Proposal (RFP) for an outside EMS to help fill in hours that the East Brunswick Rescue Squad is not able to cover.

According to Hughes, the size of East Brunswick makes it difficult for volunteers to cover the town by themselves.

“We’re a big town. We have almost 50,000 residents. While the volunteer rescue squad has been great, we have to make sure we have the coverage we need,” he said.

Due to the size of the township it is not unnatural to have up to four ambulances out on the road at one time, said Matthew Ackerman, president of the East Brunswick Rescue Squad.

In the past, the East Brunswick Rescue Squad has used an outside ambulance service, Transmed, to cover Mondays through Fridays from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m.

“This past year, however, Transmed was no longer able to continue operations, forcing matters a bit. Both the squad and township hurried to find coverage for the town on a temporary basis, the squad bringing in Old Bridge Township, and East Brunswick Township brought in Robert Wood Johnson (RWJ),” Ackerman said. 

“Ultimately the mayor decided that the township should hold the EMS [RWJ] and the squad accepted the mayor’s decision,” he said, also saying that now RWJ temporarily covers the same days and times that Transmed used to cover.

In the past the township has had to use an outside contractor to cover shifts that the volunteer service was not able to.

According to Ackerman, RWJ now covers the shifts Transmed previously handled. The rescue squad is responsible for the remaining night and weekend shifts.

The council could make a decision on the matter in early February.

For Township Business Administrator James White, the fact that the volunteer squad cannot cover the township by itself reflects the times we live in.

“As [the East Brunswick Rescue Squad] numbers dwindled, the township became concerned with response time. It’s just a fact of life, the downfall of volunteerism in New Jersey and all over the country. It’s a shame,” he said.

According to Ackerman, the comments made by White about the state of volunteerism is not “entirely wrong”.

“New Jersey, in general, is having a volunteer issue; however, reduced volunteerism is only a small part of it. We are seeing a trend of a different type of volunteer,” Ackerman said.

“When the squad began, there were a lot more township residents who just wanted to do good for their township. Increased requirements for training and general attitude change has led to more members being young students.”

This change to more young students taking up the role as volunteers, according to Ackerman, leads to scheduling conflicts.

“Oftentimes these volunteers need to leave for school, or have night classes and simply are not in town all hours of the day like the stay-at-home parents were. Furthermore, with lengthy training periods, many times the young volunteers will only have a short period of time before their life situations change and they need to leave town for one reason or another,” he said.

“The EMT of today is nothing like the EMT of years past. We now give medications and treatments never dreamed of before. With more people, an aging population, and a higher reliance on ambulances, there is a higher strain on the 911 system and the same number of volunteers cannot do as much as before.”

For Hughes, he is optimistic that in the future the township will continue to have excellent EMS.

“East Brunswick has great EMS now and will continue to have great EMS and response in the future,” he concluded.

The East Brunswick Rescue Squad was established in 1964 and operates four ambulances. According to Ackerman, roughly 20 active members of the squad respond to an average of 1,900 calls a year.

Contact Michael Nunes at mnunes@gmnews.com.