OCEAN COUNTY – The advanced life support ambulance program run by MONOC is dissolving, and local officials are making sure that there are other options available in their wake.
“My office received a number of calls from concerned residents who heard about the MONOC MICU (Mobile Intensive Care Unit) program closing in April,” said Ocean County Sheriff Michael G. Mastronardy. “Upon hearing the program will close, we immediately reached out to the providers that are assuming the operations.”
Not all ambulance crews are the same. There is actually a distinction to be made. Basic life support is often manned by volunteers. Advanced life support requires more training and is used in more life or death situations. Most towns have a volunteer squad, and a company like MONOC takes up the more critical cases. Sometimes, both will arrive at a serious car crash to see what is needed.
“MONOC has experienced a challenging financial environment caused by declining reimbursements and increasing payor restrictions, while the costs of running a high quality, high performance EMS and medical transport program continued to rise over the last few years,” a statement from the company said.
According to MONOC’s website, the service is run by Monmouth Ocean Hospital Service Corporation. It is a non-profit company started in 1978 that currently is made up of thirteen acute care hospitals throughout the state.
“We have seen a decline in service participation from our members,” the statement continued. “As these healthcare systems grew and acquired their own EMS programs, the need for MONOC to service them diminished.”
MONOC’s advanced life support program will close on April 1. Hackensack Meridian Health and RWJBarnabas Health will assume full operational and administrative responsibility of the program according to a letter from Jeff Behm, president and CEO of the Monmouth Ocean Hospital Service Corp.
“We have scheduled meetings with these hospitals to review concerns such as dispatch protocol, response coverage and other areas,” Mastronardy said. “The Sheriff’s Office is committed to making this a smooth transition of advanced life support services in order to protect our residents.
“With such a large county and with the largest senior population in the state, it’s important concerns are addressed before the new providers take over the service,” Mastronardy said. “My office and our Emergency Management staff look forward to a productive dialogue with the new providers in order to assure our residents they will be taken care of during medical emergencies.”
MONOC closing doesn’t mean that volunteer ambulance crews or municipal ones are going away. There will still be coverage of every town, officials have said.
For years, volunteer squads have seen declining enrollment. Many people don’t have the time for shifts of volunteer work. Others age out of service. As the population increases, the demand for first aiders increases. Several towns have started their own programs to supplement the volunteer squads, like Berkeley does. Manchester is just now starting up their own service.