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Supporters of Threatened Hillsborough Rescue Squad Take a Stand

Credits: Rod Hirsch
Supporters of the Hillsborough Rescue Squad gather at the intersection of Route 206 and Amwell Road Monday night. Credits: Rod Hirsch
Supporters of the Hillsborough Rescue Squad gather at the intersection of Route 206 and Amwell Road Monday night. Credits: Rod Hirsch
Supporters of the Hillsborough Rescue Squad gather at the intersection of Route 206 and Amwell Road Monday night. Credits: Rod Hirsch

HILLSBOROUGH, NJ - Citizens for Hillsborough, a grass roots activist organization waging a campaign to prevent closure of the township’s rescue squad, took its message to the streets last night hoping to garner support for their cause.

Between 15-18 people with homemade signs reading “Keep EMS Local,” Save HEMS,” “Save Our EMS,” Save Our Squad,” and “No Way RWJ,” stood at the intersection of Route 206 and Amwell Road, handing out literature to motorists between 6-8 p.m. as they waited at the traffic light for their turn to move on.

The hand outs read: “They Save Us Everyday – Now It’s Our Turn to Save Them – Stop the Outsourcing of HEMS.”

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The Township Committee is expected to discuss the matter at Tuesday night’s meeting which begins at 7:30 p.m. at the Peter Biondi Building in the municipal complex, 379 South Branch Road. The grassroots organization expects to turn out in numbers.

Under Consideration at the meeting is a “Resolution awarding contract to Robert Wood Johnson Health Network for the provision of Emergency Medical Services within the Township of Hillsborough for a term not to exceed five (5) years.”

Last December, the Township Committee advertised for proposals to operate and maintain emergency medical services for the municipality, a job the Hillsborough Rescue Squad has done for over 50 years; last year it answered 3,500 calls in the sprawling township, which covers 54.5 square miles.

Township officials have voiced concern whether the squad can sustain its membership and whether it can afford the cost to recruit and adequately train new members.

The only bid received was from Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital’s Emergency Medical Services, which also provides EMS services in Bound Brook, South Bound Brook, Manville and Bridgewater and other towns.

The Hillsborough Rescue Squad did not submit a bid, unable to satisfy a requirement that specified the need for a call center staffed by certified emergency medical dispatchers, according to HRS Chief David Gwin.

The Request for Proposals was prompted by a 2014 assessment of the growing township’s emergency preparedness conducted by Fitch and Associates - a consultant that provides management services for Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital’s EMS mobile health service.

The report concluded the status quo was unsustainable and recommended outsourcing as an option.

The HRS and RWJUH EMS are both private contractors.

Hillsborough Township contributes $300,000 to HRS annually. The township owns the seven ambulances and other equipment operated by the HRS, headquartered on East Mountain Road.  HRS Paid Crew works the 6 a.m.-6 p.m. shift, with volunteers working the 12-hour night shift. The squad is compensated by insurance carriers or the individuals requesting their services.

Opponents of the RWJUH EMS proposal are concerned that response times to emergency calls would be diminished, with only two ambulances dedicated to coverage of the township’s 40,000 residents under the submitted proposal.

Chiefs of rescue squads in surounding communities have written letters to the township in support of the HRS continuing to serve the town's residents and businesses.

Gwin and other members of the HRS were among those who gathered at the intersection Monday night, along with Jane Staats and Harrison Burke, endorsed by the Hillsborough Democratic Organization as candidates for the Township Committee in November’s election.

Further information is available on the Citizens for Hillsborough website, citizensforhillsborough.org.

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