Ambulance service files bankruptcy leaving N.J. county looking for replacement
American Legion Ambulance cited rising costs, debt in decision to end service
By Brianna Kudisch
SALEM COUNTY, N.J. — A Pennsylvania-based ambulance provider is starting to handle some 911 calls in Salem County after the previous provider filed for bankruptcy earlier this month, local officials said.
Event Medical Staffing Solutions — a Sharon Hill-based company known as EMSS — began responding to emergency calls in the county last week, said Chuck McSweeney, the president of EMS Consulting, which manages the providers in the area.
“Our response system is not changing,” said McSweeney. “The 911 system is going to have no changes. And the person who calls 911 will see no changes. We’ve made it as seamless as possible.”
The previous vendor, American Legion Ambulance Association, filed for bankruptcy due to rising costs and debt, the group said. The Woodstown-based association operated as a paid emergency medical services, or EMS, squad.
Ransom Willard , the association’s president, declined to comment and referred questions to McSweeney.
In a Jan. 12 letter to a union representative for American Legion Ambulance Association employees, Willard outlined the reasons for the bankruptcy.
“This is due to the rising costs of operations, declining reimbursement and most significant, the current debt,” Willard wrote.
American Legion Ambulance Association was providing service to townships through a shared-services agreement. But, it was also providing mutual aid to other municipalities in the county that weren’t paying for EMS services, McSweeney said.
Eventually, the organization couldn’t afford to stay in business, due to rising expenses, insurance and pay for the staff, he said. The ambulance association filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
“EMS is not well-funded in New Jersey, let alone in the country,” McSweeney said.
While the company reorganizes, EMS Consulting has entered into an agreement with EMSS, the provider based in Pennsylvania. EMSS will be based in Elmer and Carneys Point, and use the same locations as American Legion , he said.
EMSS has started providing ambulances for Carneys Point. The other ambulance base sites will be transitioned over the next two to four weeks, McSweeney said.
American Legion Ambulance Association will continue to provide service for the next few weeks, as current employees consider their options, he said.
The ambulance association is laying off roughly 65 out of 80 employees, McSweeney said. All laid-off employees are invited to apply for a new position at EMSS, he said.
EMSS has agreed to hire employees from American Legion at comparable salaries, he said. As of last week, eight were confirmed as new hires of EMSS.
Anyone who calls 911 in the county will see no change to their service, McSweeney said.
If somebody calls 911, they will get a response, even if they live in a municipality that does not pay for the shared-service agreement with the ambulance company, he said.
“However, there may be a reduction in service in the municipalities in the future where we only respond to life-threatening illnesses or injuries,” he added.
In 2014, the American Legion Ambulance Association celebrated 60 years in business.
Established in 1954, the squad was originally located at the borough hall. It later moved to Maple Court in Woodstown. The squad received roughly 160 calls per month at the time, according to a 2014 article.
In 2018, a fire severely damaged the squad’s building and six ambulances.
A financial gap for EMS providers is not new, McSweeney said.
“This is not the only organization that this is happening to, across New Jersey,” he said. “This is becoming the current trend and we just have to find a way to fund EMS.”