The state Supreme Court upheld a law by ruling in favor of the state of New Jersey, thereby allowing Cooper Health System to provide emergency medical services in the city of Camden.(Editor’s note: This report was updated at 7:30 p.m. with comments from Virtua Health and Mark Manigan of Brach Eichler, and at 10:45 a.m. Wednesday with comments from Cooper Health System and additional information.)
The state Supreme Court upheld a law by ruling in favor of the state of New Jersey, thereby allowing Cooper Health System to provide emergency medical services in the city of Camden.
A legal battle has been unfolding between the decades-long provider of the city’s EMS services, Virtua Health, and Cooper since the bill responsible for the change was signed into law last summer.
Since then, Virtua filed to prevent the law from being enacted in January, and saw momentary success in the Mercer County Superior Court.
Judge Douglas Hurd sided with Virtua, which stated in a complaint that the law was in fact “special legislation” meant to favor Cooper — whose board includes South Jersey power broker George Norcross.
In December, the appellate division granted a stay of Hurd’s order, reverting to the takeover by Cooper.
Cooper had been preparing for the Jan. 2 change in services and hired 21 paramedics and 32 emergency medical technicians, according to court documents.
“With the addition of new, state-of-the-art equipment and vehicles, we have been improving response times and service,” Cooper said.
The $2.5 million approved in the state budget that was allotted to Cooper for providing the EMS services helped in purchasing 15 new vehicles, according to Cooper’s spokeswoman, Wendy Marano.
When asked why the additional taxpayer money was required to fund the services that Cooper wanted, Marano declined to address the point.
In addition to Cooper’s preparations, University Hospital in Newark, which had been providing some EMS services in Camden, had dismantled its satellite site and sent out termination notices to its 37 employees.
The new order, upholding the law, was issued by Justice Stuart Rabner on Tuesday.
Cooper answered with a statement of its own:
“Yesterday’s ruling is one more step in the legal process, which validates the New Jersey Legislature’s overwhelmingly bipartisan vote last year to grant Cooper University Hospital the opportunity to provide both Basic Life Support and Advanced Life Support services in the city of Camden,” Cooper said. “While this process continues, Cooper will remain focused on providing the highest level of emergency care, which the people in Camden truly deserve.”
Mark Manigan, an attorney with Brach Eichler who is not affiliated with the case, said the case appears to be a clear win for Cooper. But, he added, there is still a legal route for Virtua pending before the appellate courts.