The below replaces an earlier version.
VILLAS - Lower Township Rescue Squad Capt. Thomas Conrad June 9 announced the squad, founded in 1950, will cease operations June 19, “due to several economic reasons, mostly caused by the Covid pandemic.”
“We want residents to know that outstanding obligations are still due,” added Conrad, who is also a Lower Township councilman.
“This has been coming for a while, we just didn’t think it would be this soon. We wanted to continue as long as we could meet payroll and pay our bills. That’s where we are now,” Conrad said.
Costs to operate during the pandemic soared, Conrad said, with the cost of supplies, fewer transports, and loss of employees consuming surplus.
Conrad said other factors contributed to the end of the squad, including New Jersey Medicaid payments remaining the same since 1995 and insurance costs increasing.
“We don’t charge for calls when a senior citizen needs help getting out of their chair, or a kid falls off his bike and scrapes an elbow and someone calls 911. We always felt we were part of the community and should provide those services,” Conrad said.
Township Manager Michael Laffey said a three-year contract was signed with Inspira to provide emergency medical services to the municipality.
“We put out a request for proposals (RFP) in March, when we began to see the rescue squad, which is a private, non-profit organization, was having financial issues. We received no responses to the initial RFP,” Laffey said.
A second RFP at the end of March brought a response from Inspira Health Network, which will provide one staffed ambulance during the transition. It will increase to two rigs 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and then increase to three rigs May 15 through Oct. 15, for $36,000 per year.
Laffey said the contract guarantees 90% of response times to be no more than eight minutes. Inspira offices will be located at the current squad building, at the Cape May County Airport. Ambulances will respond to calls from that location and from around the municipality, and participate in community events and provide mutual aid.
Inspira will offer positions to current rescue squad employees.
“The rescue squad and their employees did a great job for the township for a lot of years. The pandemic hurt a lot of small nonprofits nationwide. This contract with Inspira is the right move for everyone in Lower Township,” Laffey said.