Back in January of last year, New Jersey Governor Christopher J. Christie vetoed an EMS bill that intends to mandate background checks on all EMS workers, including volunteers. There are loud proponents of the bill, obviously citing safety issues, but it got ugly.
Apparently, the proponents have a “smear campaign” wherein they’re suggesting that EMT volunteers don’t have the qualifications of paid EMTs and are not subject to the same level of scrutiny. However, New Jersey state regulations require both paid and volunteer EMTs to have the same processes for certification training, continuing education and screening.
What makes it ugly is that some of the loudest proponents of the bill are New Jersey EMS stations. During a recent EMS meeting many of them found out that their own paid ambulance agencies didn’t perform criminal background checks even close to the magnitude of what they’re advocating in the bill.
Of course, detractors of the bill are just eating this up, as it makes the bill’s proponents look like they don’t know their own business. Those same detractors bring up another compelling point: Who is going to pay for this when it comes to EMT volunteers? It’s easy to demand checks, but not so easy to arrange a payment process that will require some state department somewhere to budget for it.
As always, the subject of human safety boils down to money.
Beyond the finger pointing and veritable mudslinging is the basic fact that it is a good idea to have background checks for all EMTs, both paid and volunteer. One would cringe at the thought that a criminal could potentially hold a life in their hands as an EMT volunteer, but with all that happens in other arenas from dating to employment in corporate America it makes sense to have this as a safeguard.
Apparently, this would require some widespread changes with the EMS entities in New Jersey, which would no doubt cost a lot of money that would no doubt be passed on to taxpayers.