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Virtua, Lourdes officials blast bill allowing Cooper EMS takeover

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Rich Miller, CEO and president of Virtua health system.
Rich Miller, CEO and president of Virtua health system. - ()

Officials from southern New Jersey's Virtua and Lourdes health systems took to the Statehouse on Wednesday to speak out against a currently proposed bill in the Legislature that would allow Cooper Health System to take over emergency medical services in Camden.

The bill, which has been approved at the committee level in both the Senate and Assembly thus far, would give hospitals that have been certified as Level 1 trauma centers the exclusive rights to provide all advanced life services within the municipality that the hospital is located in.

The measure is seen as a clear nod to Cooper, given that the hospital is the only Level 1 trauma center located within Camden. Virtua has provided advanced life support services within Camden and Burlington counties for the last 38 years.

Virtua CEO and President Rich Miller said that, in his 40 years of experience in the health care industry, the proposed bill is “the worst piece of legislation” that he has ever seen.

“The fact is that the existing system established in 1977 provides a high-quality service to the residents of the city of Camden and has saved thousands of lives over the past 38 years,” Miller said. “Backed by the New Jersey Department of Health, our service has been lauded as a national model that works collaboratively within a regionalized system and that is being emulated in other parts of the state. The pending legislation does not ensure higher quality or better patient outcomes and will be an additional burden to taxpayers, since Cooper would have to develop a new program (and) is seeking state funds to do so.”

Alexander Hatala, CEO and president, Lourdes Health System.
Alexander Hatala, CEO and president, Lourdes Health System. - ()

According to a Philadelphia Inquirer report this week, state Democrats have already included $2.5 million in the budget they are currently working to complete for Cooper to use to take over Camden’s emergency medical services. Cooper’s board is chaired by southern New Jersey political leader George E. Norcross III.

NJBIZ was unable to reach a Cooper representative for comment.

“There is no reason to change a high-performing model that has been serving the residents of Camden with exceptional care for almost four decades,” Lourdes CEO and President Alexander Hatala said. “Our institutions have a longstanding history of support and collaboration that has greatly benefited our community. We have an extensive track record that shows the current system offers high-quality, lower-cost care. Data drives clinical excellence, and there is absolutely no data to show that a change to the current system would benefit the city of Camden’s residents.”

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