- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 16, 2015

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - Two southern New Jersey hospital systems are battling over a bill before the Legislature that would change paramedic and ambulance services in Camden.

The bill would give Level 1 trauma centers exclusive rights to run emergency medical services in their cities.

Two of them - University Hospital in Newark and Robert Wood Johnson Hospital in New Brunswick - already have the contracts in their cities.

But Cooper University Hospital does not have the contract in Camden. The hospital says that it could improve health in the city by running both the paramedic and ambulance services because it also could efficiently deploy those medical staffers to check on patients who are released from the hospital.

The chairman of the board at Cooper is George Norcross, a Democratic Party powerbroker. His spokesman declined comment on the bill, which has been introduced and fast-tracked by Camden lawmakers and was advanced on Monday by both Assembly and Senate committees.

Currently, University Hospital provides ambulances and Marlton-based Virtua Health System provides paramedics.

For nearly 40 years, Virtua paramedics, who treat but do not transport patients, have been used in all of Camden and Burlington Counties.

Virtua is complaining about an abrupt change, which could be voted on by the entire Legislature later this month.

Scott Kasper, assistant vice president of emergency services at Virtua, said the legislation is an attempt to get around the state’s regulations on how paramedics are designated. He said if the bill passes, it could mean changes to service throughout the area Virtua’s paramedics serve.

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