After new legislation that would have transferred ambulance services to new providers in Camden and Hamilton was deemed unconstitutional, a new court order may revert the reversal.(Editor’s note: This report was updated at 6:30 p.m. with comments from Cooper University Health Care.)
After new legislation that would have transferred ambulance services to new providers in Camden and Hamilton was deemed unconstitutional, a new court order may revert the reversal.
An appellate court stay of the first ruling means all ambulatory services for Camden will transfer to Cooper University Hospital, after all, and for Hamilton to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital.
Cooper Health System had been preparing for the Jan. 2 change in services, and had hired 21 paramedics, 32 emergency medical technicians and spent $1.3 million on 11 new ambulances, according to court documents.
The order last week by Mercer County Superior Court Judge Douglas Hurd stated that the new law awarding ambulance services to Level I trauma centers is unconstitutional and considered special legislation, and halted it from being implemented.
This would have meant services for Camden would revert to Newark’s University Hospital as well as Virtua Health, which had provided ambulatory services for 38 years in Camden. Services for Hamilton would revert to Capital Health System, which has been providing the service for over 30 years.
But a stay granted Tuesday by the appellate court means the Dec. 22 decision by Hurd will not be implemented, allowing Cooper and RWJ to take over, at least until a hearing of the state’s appeal on the law’s constitutionality will take place.
“The Appellate Division of the New Jersey Superior Court today granted a stay of the order declaring the recent emergency medical services law unconstitutional,” Virtua CEO and President Richard P. Miller said in a statement. “The effect of the stay is to permit the law to go into effect, pending the outcome of the state’s appeal of New Jersey Superior Court Judge Hurd’s original ruling.
“Virtua intends to seek reconsideration of the order granting the stay, to permit Virtua to continue to provide advanced life support services in the City of Camden.”
When the legislation was signed into law by Gov. Chris Christie earlier this year, University Hospital in Newark began taking steps for it to go into effect, according to court documents.
“In anticipation of Cooper’s assumption of responsibility for BLS services, University Hospital dismantled its operations in Camden. University Hospital has sent out termination notices to the 37 employees … and many of the employees have since retired or sought employment elsewhere,” according to court documents filed in appellate court Tuesday.
As a result, Cooper argues, the court’s decision “threatens to fatally disrupt the provision of emergency medical services in the City of Camden.”
The legislation, Chapter 70, awarded ambulatory services to Level I trauma centers, such as Cooper University Hospital, removing University Hospital and Virtua’s joint services in Camden.
“Today’s ruling will allow for the full integration of EMS services in Camden with southern New Jersey’s only Level 1 trauma center, Cooper University Hospital,” Cooper University Health Care said in a statement. “This is how emergency services are provided in the other New Jersey cities with Level 1 trauma centers. The people of Camden will now receive the same level of care.”
Any hope for a final resolution continues to rest with the courts, at this point, as the state’s appeal of the constitutionality ruling has yet to be resolved.
“The state’s appeal remains pending, and Virtua will seek a prompt resolution,” Miller said. “As we await the resolution, Virtua remains committed to providing experienced and high-quality emergency medical services for residents in the 76 other municipalities we serve in Camden and Burlington counties.”