A New Jersey appeals court revived a state law allowing Level I trauma centers to exclusively take over emergency medical services.
In a unanimous opinion, three judges in the Superior Court of New Jersey Appellate Division said the legislation was constitutional, and there was a chance that allowing Level I trauma centers to provide exclusive ambulance services in their base cities would provide higher quality and more cost-effective care for patients.
“Under the circumstances, it was inappropriate for the (lower) court to second-guess the Legislature's judgment,” the decision said.
The disputed law allows New Jersey's three Level I trauma centers—Cooper University Hospital in Camden, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick and University Hospital in Newark—to exclusively provide advanced life-support services and basic life support services to their municipalities. New Jersey lawmakers said they thought linking EMS services to these providers would centralize medical oversight and promote high-quality pre-hospital care.
The law was slated to go into effect in January 2016, but two EMS providers—Virtua Health and Capital Health System—sued in December 2015, saying the law provided New Jersey's three Level I trauma centers with inappropriate benefits by blocking the long-serving providers from markets they had served since 1977.
A lower court sided with the EMS providers in December 2015 and ordered the law not be implemented.
But the appeals court said the Level I trauma centers could bring added benefits to patients with their services and the legislation made reasonable exclusions based on the conceivable benefits provided to the community.
Virtua said it was considering its next steps following the decision, noting the legislation “calls into question” Department of Health certificate of need regulations for all services in the state.