Hospitals sue NJ over Camden paramedic change
TRENTON, N.J. (AP) -- Two New Jersey hospital chains are suing the state over a New Jersey law that could result in a major change in paramedic service in Camden.
Virtua, which operates paramedic services in Camden and Burlington counties, said a law signed this month by Gov. Chris Christie violates the state constitution as "special legislation" aimed at benefiting just one community.
The law gives hospitals with Level 1 trauma centers the right to run ambulance and paramedic services in their host communities.
Unabated, the law would give the paramedic service that Virtua now runs in Camden to Cooper University Hospital, where the board chairman is George Norcross, a Democratic Party powerbroker. The state budget also includes a $5 million allocation to implement the law, something that the lawsuit calls an "irrational move."
Officials at Cooper say they want to take over the ambulance and paramedic services in the city, which is among the nation's most impoverished places, as part of an effort to better coordinate health care in the city. Cooper would also take over the ambulance services in Camden from Newark-based University Hospital.
Virtua contends that the switch would neither improve care nor save money and that the legislation makes three hospitals exempt from the state's regular process of awarding paramedic contracts. Officials at Marlton-based Virtua have said that taking away its service in the biggest community it serves would also have an effect on its regional approach.
Trenton-based Capital Health is also a plaintiff in the suit, saying it could be stripped of its paramedic service in Hamilton. That's because New Brunswick-based Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, another Level 1 trauma center, has a facility in Hamilton and could take over paramedic service in that Mercer County community under law.
The state attorney general's office said they do not comment on pending lawsuits against the state.
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