Two New Jersey health systems are suing the state, contending a new law unfairly takes away their role as advanced emergency medical service providers in their service areas.
Marlton-based Virtua Health and Trenton-based Capital Health are suing the state after Gov. Chris Christie signed a bill that gives the state's three hospitals with Level I trauma centers exclusive rights to provide advanced life support services in their respective municipalities and allows them an expedited certificate-of-need review to provide services in other cities where they have acute-care hospitals.
The move would give Camden-based Cooper University Health Care the exclusive right to provide advanced life-support services in Camden, where Virtua has provided those services for the past 38 years. New Brunswick-based Robert Wood Johnson Health System and Newark-based University Hospital already provide services in their respective home cities, but the law allows Robert Wood Johnson to apply for a CON to provide services in Hamilton, where it has an acute-care hospital, but where Capital currently provides advanced life-support services.
The law also gives the three systems with Level I trauma centers the right of first refusal for basic life support, or BLS, services in the cities in which they operate. That is provided the city doesn't offer BLS services through a municipal service or as part of a shared-services agreement. BLS ambulances, which provide non-invasive, low-level care, respond to all 911 calls; advanced life-support ambulances, also known as mobile intensive-care units, are called in for more serious, life-threatening conditions.
Virtua and Capital say the law circumvents the state health department's traditional role in regulating which hospitals provide advanced life-support services, and violates the New Jersey Constitution's prohibition against “special legislation” that excludes certain entities from legal benefit without any rational basis.