Medford To Charge Ambulance Fee The Township Hired Two Police Officers To Handle The Workload. The Money Will Pay Their Salaries.

Posted: September 14, 1997

MEDFORD — The township will begin charging residents a fee next month for ambulance service to offset the cost of supplementing its volunteer organization with a daytime emergency medical squad.

Residents, who previously were transported by ambulance to the hospital for free, now will pay $250.

Most of the revenue from the new ambulance fees will fund the salaries of two new officers hired July 1 to beef up a Police Department that had been drained by ambulance work. Each officer is paid a starting salary of $26,000.

The new workers will rotate with eight other officers who are trained as emergency medical technicians to respond to daytime ambulance calls.

The Police Department has handled daytime emergency calls since 1990, because many members of Medford's volunteer ambulance squad work outside the township and are unable to respond to daytime emergencies, said Police Chief Steven McGarvey.

As the department's daytime ambulance workload grew, however, ``we were draining police resources all over,'' McGarvey said.

An increase in Medford's population - which more than doubled in the 1970s and grew by 17 percent in the 1980s - complicated the problem. The ambulance squad handled about 200 calls a year in the 1970s; today, that number is up to about 1,500.

Last year, the township's Public Safety Department proposed creating a paid daytime emergency squad, separate from the volunteer squad and the Police Department. Under that proposal, residents would have been charged for ambulance service.

But that plan would have tacked on more than $100,000 in expenses to the $40,000 annual allocation for the ambulance squad. Instead, the township decided to increase the size of the Police Department to absorb the extra workload from ambulance response, McGarvey said.

Patients with serious emergencies, who require treatment from Memorial Hospital of Burlington County's Mobile Intensive Care Unit, will pay a lower fee, just $150 for township service, because those patients already pay $875 for the hospital's paramedic response.

Residents who receive Medicaid and Medicare will be charged only as much as those services reimburse them for ambulance costs, said township administrator Alan Feit.

In addition to paying $52,000 in salaries for the two new police officers, the ambulance fees will cover the $40,000 operating cost for the ambulance squad.

That amount does not include about $500,000 the township plans to set aside in next year's budget for new headquarters for the squad, whose current building has room for just two of its three ambulances. The squad hopes to purchase land on Mill Street for a new building.

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