Virtua Takes Court Action to Preserve Integrity of New Jersey’s Emergency Air Medical System
MARLTON, N.J., Jan. 14, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ – Virtua filed a motion today with the New Jersey Superior Court to preserve the integrity of the state’s emergency air medical system. The system, available around the clock, stabilizes and transports severely ill and injured trauma victims by helicopter to the nearest appropriate hospital.
In its court action, Virtua contends that the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) permitted the addition of an Emergency Air Medical Unit in Southern New Jersey without regard for the existing components of the Emergency Medical System (EMS), which have been functioning efficiently and serving people in South Jersey for many years. Virtua contends that the DHSS action undermines that system and creates unnecessary redundancy that will lead to a degradation of the overall quality of care in the region while dramatically increasing costs.
In December 2010, DHSS issued a license to Atlantic Air Ambulance of Morristown, NJ, affiliated with Atlantic Health System, to operate an Emergency Air Medical Unit known as Air 2, which is based in Millville, Cumberland County.
“The state’s long-standing air emergency system is in jeopardy,” said Scott Kasper, Virtua Director of Emergency Medical Services. “The current system uses highly-trained and experienced flight nurses, paramedics and pilots who quickly respond to the scene of any accident or trauma in a New Jersey State Police helicopter known as SouthStar.”
Virtua SouthStar has responded to calls for more than 18,000 accident and trauma victims in Southern New Jersey since 1988. The medical literature related to emergency medical services is clear – Emergency Medical Systems in which patients have better outcomes are those in which the emergency responders treat a higher volume of critical patients. An increase in the number of helicopters licensed to perform emergency air medical services will dilute the volume of patients for each such service, thus placing patients at risk of deteriorating clinical quality.
“Adding another helicopter into the system – with the volume of flights remaining stable from year to year – means that our nurses and paramedics will have fewer opportunities to maintain their skills,” said Kasper. “As a result of the DHSS action, the current volume of patients will be diluted by more than fifty percent.”
Kasper said that Virtua nurses and paramedics provide services on SouthStar, the southern component of the Jersey Emergency Medical Shock Trauma Air Response (JEMSTAR) System in collaboration with the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) and the New Jersey State Police. “Our staff is on standby and ready to board the SouthStar helicopter 24/7 so they can quickly respond to the scene of an accident or trauma anywhere in Southern New Jersey in a matter of minutes,” Kasper said.
“During the past 22 years, SouthStar has provided victims of trauma and significant life threatening illnesses with efficient, high quality, and cost-effective care,” Kasper said. “From the time the state’s JEMSTAR program was established in 1988, the system was built on the concept of regionalization. This approach is supported by a vast number of studies and reports. However, inexplicably, DHSS appears on a path to allow more air medical helicopters to participate in the emergency air medical system which is now finely tuned, functioning efficiently and saving lives,” Kasper said.
The current JEMSTAR program is funded by the state with a minimal four-dollar surcharge on every motor vehicle registration to provide affordable services to victims during a time of crisis. In contrast, private helicopter providers charge patients and their insurance companies, on average, as much as ten times the fee charged by JEMSTAR.
Virtua contends that the issuance of the license to allow Air 2 to operate within the structure of the Southern New Jersey EMS system is in violation of the DHSS Certificate of Need regulations that are currently in place. Critical services, such as Emergency Air Medical Services, have been implemented in a way that ensures appropriate access and highest clinical quality, as well as an opportunity for public review and comment.
Recognizing this situation, Virtua determined that it needed to take action by filing a motion with the New Jersey Superior Court to require the Department of Health and Senior Services to follow the existing regulations. Virtua also requested that the Commissioner of Health and Senior Services issue a stay of the Air 2 licensure until such time as the court makes its final ruling in this matter.
Virtua is a comprehensive multi-hospital healthcare system headquartered in Marlton, NJ. Its mission is to deliver a world-class patient experience through its programs of excellence in cancer treatment, cardiology, orthopaedics, women’s health, pediatrics, surgery and neuroscience. A non-profit organization, Virtua employs 8,400 clinical and administrative personnel, and approximately 1,800 physicians serve as medical staff members. Virtua has distinguished itself as one of the first Six Sigma organizations in healthcare, as an early adopter of clinical and digital technologies, and for its innovative partnerships with nationally renowned organizations such as GE Healthcare and Fox Chase Cancer Center. It has been honored twice with the New Jersey Governor’s award for Clinical Excellence and recognized with the Leadership Award for Outstanding Achievement by Voluntary Hospitals of America. Virtua has been honored as the #1 Best Employer in the Delaware Valley for five consecutive years by the Philadelphia Business Journal and is the recipient of the Consumer Choice Awards by National Research Corporation. Virtua is proud to be the official southern New Jersey sponsor of the Go Red for Women and Start! Walking Movements. For more information, visit our website at www.virtua.org or call 1-888-VIRTUA-3 (1-888-847-8823)
SOURCE Virtua Health