Two identical bills currently before the New Jersey legislature are intended to enhance patient safety by changing how emergency medical services (EMS) are regulated, funded and delivered. Senate Bill 818 and Assembly Bill 2095 were created to respond to critical problems exposed by a 2007 Department of Health and Senior Services study of ambulance and paramedic services.
As currently written, key aspects of the proposed amendments include:
- Licensing requirements for emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics
- Increased funding for the EMT Training Fund and expansion of the fund to cover all New Jersey EMTs
- New guidelines for delivery of Advanced Life Support (ALS) and Basic Life Support (BLS) services
One aspect of New Jersey medical malpractice claims that many people may not understand is that, under most circumstances, state law protects hospitals, medical staff, paramedics and other employees from civil liability for damages resulting from mistakes made when performing advanced life support services. The new law would expand this immunity to EMTs, nurses and other clinicians, and further defines the protected services to include basic life support.
Obviously, better training and oversight of emergency responders would be an asset for victims of motor vehicle accidents, construction accidents and other tragedies who suffer traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord damage, burns and other harm. Prompt, expert treatment is the first step toward recovery, and New Jersey needs to invest in the best support possible for its citizens. Putting patients first by holding EMS providers accountable to stricter licensing requirements and regulations is a positive step.