Time is of the essence when someone has sustained brain trauma, which is why I think New Jersey has made a wise decision regarding the turf war between state-owned and private medical helicopters.
There’s been an ongoing dispute between the state medevac service and private copter companies, The Star-Ledger of Newark reported Thursday. But under new protocols that became effective immediately, whichever helicopter is closest to a patient — whether it’s owned by New Jersey or a private service — will be dispatched to that patient.
This marks a change from previous rules that gave the state priority to respond to 911 emergency calls, according to The Ledger. There are three private companies that are licensed to transport patients in New Jersey.
The rub is that private helicopters will be more expensive for already over-burdened New Jersey taxpayers. The Ledger reported that a state helicopter flight only costs $1,337 compared with $3,500 if the flight is subsidized by Medicare and as much as $12,000 if an insurance company foots the bill.
But the extra cost is justified if it saves lives.
The copter protocol first came under review after a 2006 motorcycle crash in Sparta, N.J., that injured a Franklin Township, N.J., man, according to The Ledger. A paramedic called for a copter from a private company, but the state rules overrode that and a New Jersey State Police helicopter was sent instead. It took 16 minutes longer to get to the accident scene than the private helicoper would have.
The Franklin Township man died of his injuries a week later.