HOWELL – The Howell Fire District 1 Board of Fire Commissioners passed a resolution that has put an end to the EMS assistance program that allowed firefighters from District 1 to help in emergency situations until an ambulance arrived on the scene.
The resolution was passed unanimously by the commissioners and went into effect on Jan. 1, putting an end to the program that lasted more than a decade, according to the Howell Township Uniformed Fire Fighters IAFF Local 5015.
According to the resolution, Fire District personnel formed an EMS program in which they assisted volunteer first aid squads in cases of medical emergencies for residents. If the fire district was able to get help to the scene faster, they would do so.
The reason for this program was to provide faster, quality help because of difficulties with ambulance response times, according to the Howell Township Uniformed Fire Fighters IAFF Local 5015.
“The EMS response was started years ago before the Howell Police paid ambulance existed, response times were slower then,” said a statement from the Howell Uniformed Fire Fighters. “Even though the paid service now exists, they are busy in this 64-square-mile town and have long turnaround times from both CentraState Hospital and Jersey Shore University Medical Center.”
The termination of this program has met much disappointment on behalf of the fire fighters who have been provided this assistance for years.
“With the elimination of this program, firefighters remain on duty and listen to these calls for service and have to remain in the firehouse and not respond,” the statement said. “The help is on duty in the firehouse and unable to go and provide assistance.”
They noted that just a week prior to the termination of the program, fire fighters assisted in calls for a cardiac emergency at Mulligan’s on Route 547 and for a man that fell off a roof on Daybreak Court. In both incidents, they arrived quickly before an ambulance, and undoubtedly made a difference.
Howell Township Uniformed Fire Fighters, along with representatives from the IAFF and PFANJ met with District 1 Board members Gerald Murphy and Thomas Matthews along with the Board’s Labor Attorney Lane Bivianno on Jan. 17, 2018. At that meeting, Bivianno stated that the reason EMS response was stopping was because the Howell Police EMS earns approximately $1.1 million dollars in billing for EMS response and Howell Fire District 1 sees none of that money, according to the statement.
“We are not considered a for profit agency,” the statement said. “It seems that dollars are being put before lives.”
The Board noted that from now on, the focus will be on firefighting duties only.
Without Howell Fire District 1’s services, only Fire District 3 Southard and Fire District 4 Ramtown will provide assistance. This is an issue still, according to fire fighters, because the numbers of calls are constantly increasing as the area continues to be “built up.” The problem will not be fixed by taking away further assistance, they said.
“There is no public purpose served for the Fire District to continue to provide duplicate First Responder Medical Services at Fire District taxpayer expense,” it stated in the resolution.
Howell now provides paid EMS for Fire District residents, so there is no longer a need for the additional service, according to the commissioners.
To this, Deputy Mayor Robert Nicastro said, “I question their belief and statement that ‘continuing to provide emergency medical response is a duplicate of service and there is no public purpose for Fire District to continue Emergency Medical Services.’ We all know seconds and minutes matter in emergency situations and in many cases the fire company is the first to respond and begin emergency care until an ambulance responds.”
According to the Howell Uniformed Fire Fighters, “the cancellation of this program has certainly had a negative effect on the community.”
Attempts to reach the Fire Commissioners were unsuccessful as of press time.