Okay, so one answer to the question is 330 miles along I-95. However, I am not referring to their physical distance apart, but rather the enormous distance in their thinking about EMS. Both cities have invested in building impressive systems, they just seem to disagree on the value of their creations.
It has not even been two years since JEMS magazine was lauding Jersey Center Medical Center EMS (JCMCEMS) for achieving an unprecedented five national accreditations after a stunning turnaround that began only back in 2005. By all accounts, JCMCEMS has become a leading EMS service in the last few years that has shown an impressive attention to detail and creativity. Innovations such as accurately positioning units in anticipation of calls have seen a corresponding reduction in response time that has directly contributed to saving lives. Yet in the last few months, JCMCEMS has again begun a fight for its life in keeping a contract it has held for 130 years. The Jersey City mayor, Steve Fulop, has actively campaigned to replace the Jersey City Medical Center as EMS provider with CarePoint Health/McCabe Ambulance Services. What appears to be the issue is that JCMCEMS had charged the city for providing the service in order to upgrade the overall system while McCabe now offers to pay the city $2.6M for the privilege of operating the service. The end of this story hasn’t been written yet, but the mere fact it is still an open question should send shudders down the spines of any EMS managers that are planning and building toward a new health care future.
The Richmond Ambulance Authority (RAA), on the other hand, is a relative newcomer as a municipal EMS provider with a charter that dates only to 1991. But in a very short time, they have become recognized not only nationally by being one of less than a dozen services (along with Jersey City) to achieve accreditation from both the Commission on Accreditation of Ambulance Services (CAAS) and the National Academy of Emergency Dispatch (NAED) but garnered international recognition as well. By leveraging this investment, Richmond has chosen to promote its EMS and medical institutions as an engine of health care practice and innovation in a 2013 plan “The Future of Health Care in the Richmond Region” that seeks to drive innovation throughout the region in collaboration with the state to influence the creation of new models in health care delivery around the world. Already, the idea of EMS as Competitive Economic Advantage is inspiring hope.
The basic question in disagreement between these cities who have both built similar successful systems, is whether EMS is fundamentally a “service” simply to be provided as cost effectively as possible, or is it an “asset” that could be nurtured not only for the health of its people but for the very health of its future economy as well. It appears that these two cities may choose different paths and only some future hindsight will give us vision as to which made the better choice.