By Briana Vannozzi
One year after Cooper University Health Care won the battle to exclusively provide ambulance services in the city of Camden, hospital execs and the state’s top leaders touted its success.
“In less than a year, this team of people here, who work every day trying to make sure that the people of this city receive the care they deserve, have met a 90 percent plus mandate of meeting people’s needs. That is extraordinary,” said George Norcross, chairman of the board of trustees for Cooper University Health Care.
“Among many of the initiatives for our city, I have to say that expanding access to quality health care has been a priority of mine for our Camden residents,” said Camden Mayor Dana Redd.
Cooper took over the basic and advanced life services supports after a piece of contentious legislation passed in 2015. It required emergency medical services to be operated by a Level I Trauma Center. It came after officials said response times were lagging by other providers. Some saw it as a power grab by South Jersey political boss Norcross.
“Let’s not sugarcoat this today. This was a fight. You’ll remember when we decided to do this. We had to go through assaults from certain sectors of the public that were reported pretty widely. We had to go through litigation,” said Gov. Chris Christie.
The health care system saw a nearly 10 percent increase in the volume of calls since taking over. And at the same time improved response rates within eight minutes or less from 70 to 90 percent over the year. Execs say advanced life support transports also increased by 58 percent.
“Number one, I think we’re staffed better. I think number two, also we are doing an integrated model where we have ALS and BLS going out on the call so you don’t have two rigs,” said Cooper University Health Care President and CEO Adrienne Kirby.
In a statement, a Virtua spokesperson said, “…Virtua disagrees with the legislative process that changed the EMS system in Camden. However, Virtua continues to provide high-quality EMS services in Burlington and Camden counties, and remains committed to all the communities we serve.”
Cooper EMS crews also made over 700 overdose reversals in Camden in 2016. Progress that Christie says dovetails with his efforts to reduce the opioid epidemic.