Town awards 90-day contract to RWJBH for local ambulance services; Kearny EMS ends at midnight, Jan. 1

A screenshot of the Kearny Town Council just prior to voting to award ambulance contract to RWJBarnabas Health. Kearny’s Melanie A. Ryan is speaking at the podium. Zoom

The Town of Kearny has a new emergency ambulance service provider, replacing Kearny EMS, which advised the town it was going out of business, effective New Year’s Day, after two decades of local service.

The town governing body voted 7-0, on Thursday, Dec. 29, with Mayor Alberto Santos and Fourth Ward Councilwoman Susan McCurrie absent, to designate Robert Wood Johnson/Barnabas EMS Health, based in New Brunswick, to “provide (emergency) ambulance services for a minimum of 90 days until a permanent ambulance service agreement can be solicited and awarded.”

RWJBarnabas, which claims to be “the largest unified EMS provider in the state,” will launch its Kearny venture on Jan. 1 at midnight. It will solely provide basic life care services — known as BLS. They will not provide advance or paramedic care (ALS).

Town Administrator Stephen Marks said the vendor has agreed to operate the service at no cost to Kearny.

Marks said only two vendors responded to the town’s Request for Proposals; the other, he said, came from NJ/Mobile HealthCare, of Mahwah, which offered to do the job for $173,375 per month.

Asked by resident Melanie Ryan to explain the wide disparity in price, Marks had no answer.

The Observer previously attempted to reach a spokesperson for the firm but got no response.

However, a source tells The Observer when a $0 contract is awarded, it is often an indication RWJBH will do as they please without input from the governing body. Bill discrepancies? Inordinate charges for a simple ambulance ride?

Chances will be likely the town won’t be able to intervene.

Fourth Ward Councilman Gerald Ficeto asked if RWJBarnabas would “use their own ambulances” to respond to emergency calls and Marks said they would.  No one else on the council raised questions about the agreement.

The RFP circulated by Kearny says, “The Town seeks no less than two ambulances to cover the community between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. seven days per week and no less than one ambulance to cover the Town between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m. seven days per week.”

Kearny is making available the town-owned two-story EMS facility with four vehicle bays at 352 Maple St. to the new vendor which, according to Marks, currently responds to emergency calls at the county jail in south Kearny from an EMS facility in that vicinity.

RWJBarnabas will provide its own gas to the ambulance, a change from Kearny EMS.

Whether RWJBarnabas plans to maintain that facility in lieu of stationing two ambulances out of Maple Street, Marks said it’s possible the vendor may elect to maintain south Kearny to run a “third ambulance” from that location is something he’d have to investigate.

Because the RFP says “the emergency service ambulance shall be stationed in the residential area of town,” it seems unlikely that the vendor could run either of the two required emergency ambulances from the largely industrial South Kearny area.

RWJBarnabas would, as called for by the RFP, be expected to “work closely with the Kearny Fire and Police departments to report all emergency medical calls within the most recent industry standards for response times” for which the vendor pledges to respond within less than 10 minutes, 90% of the time.

And RWJBarnabas will also “provide mutual aid with Belleville, Harrison, North Arlington and Lyndhurst.”

The RFP provides no guidance on billing by the vendor except that it “shall invoice Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance companies … and shall seek charity care funding for the uninsured if available.”

Click here for a list of insurances RWJBH accepts.

Kevin A. Canessa Jr. contributed to this report.

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Ron Leir | For The Observer

Ron Leir has been a newspaperman since the late ’60s, starting his career with The Jersey Journal, having served as a summer reporter during college. He became a full-time scribe in February 1972, working mostly as a general assignment reporter in all areas except sports, including a 3-year stint as an assistant editor for entertainment, features, religion, etc.

He retired from the JJ in May 2009 and came to The Observer shortly thereafter.

He is also a part-time actor, mostly on stage, having worked most recently with the Kearny-based WHATCo. and plays Sunday softball in Central Park, New York