I would like to first start off by saying that no, I do not work for Lakewood EMS. Judging by some comments made, it’s unlikely I would meet their strict requirements for working there. In my experience, being completely honest, paid companies seem to have a mosiac of those who are well trained with several years under their belt, and those who are new to the field. For example, I’ve been on the road for 4 short years, and have taken several courses to expand upon my knowledge, as well as worked at 4 different private agencies, and volunteered on a FAS for 3 years.. The agency I work for has several persons who have 5, 10, 15+ years of experience. I’ve seen that kind of work experience go in two different directions. There are those who have allowed it to help them become good EMTs, and those who’ve allowed it to go to their head. I’ve noticed that typically private companies will pair the ‘new guy’ with someone, or two someones in most instances (at least for a week) who has that field experience. It does typically seem to work well, but at the same time, very rarely do those transport agencies see MVAs, for example, where they’re providing care.
I’ve seen it noted that Lakewood has an industrial complex and an airfield, which Lakewood EMS has specifically trained to handle. Looking at the example of Jackson, Jackson holds Six Flags, and a few industrial agencies over on their ‘west’ side of town. QMT, I would hope, requires those who work in that town to have more specialized training with regards to MCIs, HAZMAT awareness/ops, and WMD awareness/ops. I would also sincerely hope that, in the unfortunate event that Lakewood’s leadership does decide to disband LEMS and bring in a private agency, that the private agency would do the extra training needed to prepare their EMTs with the knowledge needed to appropriately care for the people of Lakewood, in the interest of providing exceptional care.
I see it’s already been clarified that the BASE training for the certification is where everyone is equal in regards to training.
Those who are paramedics on the LEMS trucks that currently serve as the township’s EMS agency do have the benefit of being able to focus on certain things that may be considered more important, that the EMT course may not necessarily cover. I do not know for 100% if that’s the case — I have not yet attended paramedic school.
One piece that I do feel the Mayor may be slightly underexaggerating, though, is how important an intact BLS system in the area is. The BLS is more than the on-scene care and transportation. They perform a lot of the basic stuff, freeing up medic hands for the more advanced stuff (such as IV starts and intubations), and also assist the medics as they’re able to. It’s jokingly said that while the medic saves the pt, the EMT saves the medic. Not to mention, there are those times when paramedics are unavailable. Lakewood’s primary medic unit is MONOC Medic 207, with backups from 205 (out of Brick), 212/214 (out of Toms River), and 211 (out of Lakehurst). Those units also have their own areas to cover, and 207 is responsible for heading out to their areas as well, in addition to also covering Jackson and Howell. Thus, sometimes that ALS just isn’t available. The EMTs on those trucks are then required to perform the best care they can provide all the way to the hospital, and adapt to the changes in the patient’s status. Not to mention that there are several times where the patient needs advanced care, but waiting for paramedics, or going to meet up with paramedics, just doesn’t make sense (I.E. paramedics coming from Toms River with the pt on the stretcher, and KMC being 5 minutes down the road). That’s where the experience does come into play, and the EMTs on the truck are required to make decisions as to treatment and transport.
For those of you who are thinking like #3, though… you’re talking about those who are expected to be there when you need them most. One of the rules of EMS is that before we can step in to help someone, we need to assure our own well being first (considered a critical failure in practical tests if we don’t first verbalize scene safety first). Most of those working for LEMS have families to feed. They’re also working in the lowest paid portion of medical services: field emergency services. They’re responsible for triage, transport and care. We’re not talking about a sterile operating room or a clean ER here, we’re talking about out in the rain at half past midnight, crawling into a mangled car, and holding the hand of the person trapped inside until they’re ready for extrication. We’re talking about crews walking into houses which possibly may not be safe. We’re talking about those times when the roads are so bad that nobody wants to be on them, and yet those trucks still roll.
When it comes down to it, can you really put a price on public health and safety? On your own personal health and safety? Would you rather have someone who’s not stressing about how they’re gonna feed their family (and thus losing sleep), who’s managed to feed themselves right, and who’s not going on 18 hours between their other job and this one treating you, or someone who’s working 2 or 3 jobs and thus not sleeping, not eating right because they can’t afford it, and even when they’re home not sleeping well because of the stress of the bills on the table performing that treatment? They’re part of the healthcare team. It’s important to keep that in mind. These are the guys who get you first, and initiate that sometimes life-saving care necessary to preserve your existance. They do so even on holidays. Example — I’m admittedly a christian by birth, and worked both Christmas Eve and Christmas (Dec. 24th and Dec. 25th), both of which are considered holy days by my religion. For EMS, there are no holidays. It’s a 24/7/365 commitment to quality emergency care and being there when you need us most. So, at least in my opinion, those who work in the EMS field, whether they’re making 27 thousand a year, or making 75 thousand a year, are earning every penny of their salary, and for the most part are still underpaid.
I’ll be continuing to keep an eye on how this is handled by Lakewood’s leadership, and sincerely hope that they make the right decision by the township’s people, and not by the township’s purse.