NJ rescue squad fined over $180K for using unlicensed ambulances

An investigation stemming from an anonymous tip also found that only one EMT was on board at more than 100 calls


Chris Sheldon
NJ Advance Media Group, Edison, N.J.

The state has fined a Somerset County first aid squad $182,000 for driving three unlicensed ambulances and not having the minimum number of EMTs on board over 100 during emergency calls.

The fines were detailed in a letter from the New Jersey Department of Health’s Office of Emergency Medical Services (OEMS) to Jason Kerestes, chief of the Somerville Rescue Squad.

In the letter, sent Monday, the chief was told the fines were to be paid within 30 days or that the volunteer squad could request a hearing to contest the penalties within the same timeframe.

A call seeking comment from the Somerville Rescue Squad Wednesday afternoon was not immediately returned.

The OEMS said it received an anonymous tip the squad was "operating unlicensed vehicles when providing 911 emergency medical care to the residents of Somerville and its contiguous area,” according to the letter.

An OEMS investigation and audit found the squad used two licensed ambulances, and the state warned the squad they could not operate any unlicensed ambulances.

During its investigation, the state received another anonymous tip on Aug. 29, 2019 detailing the same allegations.

A review of the squad’s electronic patient care reports showed that from Sept. 1 2018 through Aug. 29, 2019, the squad handled 962 calls that required the use of an ambulance and in 524 of them, the two licensed vehicles were used, according to the letter.

However, the review also showed that three ambulances that were not licensed by the OEMS were used 142 times over a 77-day period and that one had just been used two days after the squad was warned by the state, authorities said.

The investigation also revealed that only one EMT was aboard an ambulance during 105 calls; a violation of a state law that requires at least two to be on board during an emergency call, the letter stated.

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©2019 NJ Advance Media Group, Edison, N.J.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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