The South Orange Rescue Squad takes its name seriously.
The all-volunteer squad — which usually provides ambulance and emergency services to residents from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. Monday to Friday and on weekends — has stepped in to “rescue” South Orange Village by providing daytime ambulance service after the township was forced to cancel the services of its vendor, Americare, beginning on May 31.
According to South Orange Trustee and health and safety liaison Donna Coallier, “It is my understanding that the company that was providing our day time services was having operational issues that they could not overcome and so the Village was forced to terminate their contract. The Village has undertaken a vetting process to identify a new service provider that it hopes to complete by the end of July. As a result, mid August is the target start date for the new service provider.”
According to a letter from the New Jersey Office of Emergency Medical Services dated June 18, 2019, Americare had its license suspended following complaints on May 30 about its operations and vehicles (one “complainant reported that doors of an Americare ambulance were falling off their hinges”). See the full letter below. [Editor’s Note: According to the State, via email on July 24, a temporary injunction lifting AmeriCare’s summary suspension was issued by the court effective July 2, 2019.]
Meanwhile, Coallier wrote, “We are very proud of Scott Egelberg, Rescue Squad Captain, and his team for the quality job they do year round and for stepping up to fill in this gap in services – we issued a proclamation to that effect at the July 8th Village Trustee meeting.”
Egelberg noted on July 8, that the all-volunteer squad, though stretched somewhat thin, had risen to the occasion and that at lest 30 volunteers have pitched in to provide daytime coverage. In a letter seeking donations (see below), SORS President Troy Balog noted that volunteers “have been taking time off work, school, and their families to ensure South Orange does not experience a gap in coverage of the additional 60 hours per week. This is in addition to their normal practice of staffing ‘back up’ crews for second and third calls in town.”
When reached by Village Green, Egelberg wished to assure residents that SORS is fully capable of providing all the needed coverage in a highly professional manner (all teams have at least two trained EMTs) until a contract is executed with a new vendor.
“There haven’t been any calls that we weren’t able to fulfill,” said Egelberg. Part of the reason that the squad can fulfill the need is that membership is booming. “We’re as full as we can be,” said Egelberg. In addition, Egelberg, who works as a clerk/typist for the South Orange building and health departments, said that his employer has been very accommodating in light of his increased daytime SORS responsibilities.
Egelberg reported that the squad is technically able to cover up to four calls simultaneously, a situation that rarely arises. However, he noted that in the “worst case scenario,” the Township has a memorandum of understanding with UMDNJ to provide backup — an occurrence that rarely arises. In reality, said Egelberg, “We help them out more than they help South Orange.”
Meanwhile, a daytime vendor should be selected shortly. South Orange Village Administrator Adam Loehner told Village Green, “RFP’s [requests for proposals] for EMS were responded to on July 16th with three respondents. The Village will be interviewing them next week on the 30th and will hope to award the contract at the first meeting in August.”
See the latest letter to supporters from the South Orange Rescue Squad below. Donate to SORS here.
Due to circumstances beyond their control, the Township of South Orange Village was forced to terminate services with the ambulance service provider who formerly operated Monday through Friday from 6am to 6pm, commonly known as “daytime coverage” for 911 medical calls. The South Orange Volunteer Rescue Squad has continuously provided overnight and weekend coverage. The combination of these services gave South Orange 24/7 coverage.
With no paid daytime company to cover South Orange residents, our South Orange Rescue Squad volunteers have stepped up to the plate and filled the gap of daytime coverage to provide 24/7 emergency medical care. Over two dozen dedicated volunteers have been taking time off work, school, and their families to ensure South Orange does not experience a gap in coverage of the additional 60 hours per week. This is in addition to their normal practice of staffing “back up” crews for second and third calls in town.
This drastic change in operating hours is affecting the Squad in many ways. We began 24/7 coverage starting May 31, 2019 and, due to the bidding process for a new daytime provider, will continue into mid-August. The South Orange Rescue Squad is experiencing a rise in building utilities, medical supplies, and administrative activities. We estimate our costs could rise 55% during this time span.
The Squad’s mission is to provide free medical treatment and transport to South Orange, Maplewood, and the surrounding community. The Squad is staffed by volunteers and funded solely by contributions from the community—with no taxpayer funding. The Squad saves residents an estimated $1,040,000 per year in medical fees charged by for-profit EMS agencies by continuing our mission of never charging for ambulance services. Each patient we help costs us $50 to $100 depending on what equipment we use. The South Orange Rescue Squad recently released our summer fund drive solicitation and we hope you will consider supporting us, especially during this period of extraordinary service to the town.
We’ve stepped up–will you step up? Please consider making a tax-deductible donation today:
Donations can be made via check or online at https://www.southorangerescuesquad.org/contribute
President, South Orange Rescue Squad