Township officials are working on a plan to supplement first aid coverage in the senior communities at night, as squad memberships continue to drop.
"We have a very serious problem," Mayor Carmen F. Amato Jr. said at the Aug. 14 Township Council meeting. "Response times in the senior communities at night are longer and longer. As the years go by, it becomes more difficult to get volunteers."
Township Councilman Thomas Grosse said members of the public safety committee met recently with first aid squad representatives to discuss the "dwindling numbers" in squads in the senior communities.
Age, illness, seniors who have to work, and an increase in required training hours from 140 hours to 195 hours have contributed to the problem, Grosse said.
"It didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out there was going to be a problem," he said. "It appears we are going to try and get the program up and running."
The first aid squads in the senior communities will continue to work. The township plans to hire two paid EMTs to supplement the night shifts, Grosse said.
Amato said after the meeting that he and Township Council members are committed to supporting the first aid squads.
"do an exceptional job responding to the needs of the senior communities during the day," he said.
Currently MONOC paramedics frequently answer calls in the senior communities, then bill residents for their services.
That won't happen if the township hires paid EMTs, because the township will take only what a resident's insurance pays, Grosse said.
"There will be no extra money coming out of your pocket," he said.
Some residents actually put off calling for help because they are afraid of the cost, Amato said after the meeting.
"Residents should not be afraid to call 911 for help for fear they will be getting a large bill for the service," the mayor said. "We have an obligation to make sure when residents call 911 for a medical emergency at night in the senior community, the response is there."
Since the idea is still in the "infancy" stages, the details still have to be worked out.
"We are looking into this program very seriously," Grosse said. "We in no way intend to the first aid squads out. It's the squads who are coming to us and saying 'We need help.' "
The paid EMT program will pay for itself, as it has in neighboring comunities, he said.
"This is something we need to do," Amato said. "So that when people dial 911 they know an ambulance will be there. This is not a money maker. It's making sure our residents will be protected."