NJ EMS agency responds to $617K fine, disputes DOH allegations
The agency’s chief says the NJ DOH had already approved their policy of staffing an unlicensed ambulance with one EMT
By Laura French
LANOKA HARBOR, N.J. — After a New Jersey volunteer EMS agency was fined $617,000 for allegedly running unlicensed vehicles with insufficient staff, the agency’s chief released an official statement explaining the background of the situation and disputing many of the New Jersey Department of Health’s claims.
Lanoka Harbor EMS (LHEMS) Chief Justin Meehan wrote that the Department of Health (DOH) had reviewed and approved the service’s policy of staffing its unlicensed ambulance with one EMT and one CPR-certified driver, a policy LHEMS had followed for 39 years without incident.
The chief also said that in 2018, when the service first became licensed by the DOH in order to start billing insurance, they were advised by regulators that they were permitted to keep one unlicensed ambulance staffed with one EMT in order to keep up with 911 calls on limited resources.
LHEMS was notified of an anonymous complaint about their unlicensed ambulance on June 20, but Meehan said they had never received complaints from patients about the quality of their care or the vehicle. On Jan. 31, the DOH sent a letter announcing that LHEMS would be penalized for alleged violations of DOH regulations.
“There are numerous inaccuracies (in the letter) driving an absurd fine of alleged non-compliances that will require resolution,” Meehan wrote. “For example, three of the vehicles cited in the letter are not ambulances, and do not transport patients.”
Meehan’s statement says that LHEMS has retained legal counsel specializing in EMS issues and will be appealing the fines. He also said LHEMS has implemented a two-EMT policy and formed a second non-billing agency called Lanoka Harbor First Aid that will be permitted to run the unlicensed ambulance.
“Lanoka Harbor EMS remains an ALL-VOLUNTEER agency that has served our community for the last 41 years with honor and distinction answering calls for help,” Meehan’s statement concludes. “We remain committed to do so today, as we fight to maintain our good name and reputation against these serious but unfounded allegations.”