Gloucester Township Council reorganization discusses marijuana and ambulance switch

Continued problems with GT EMS has caused the township to switch to a different ambulance provider after it could not meet contract requirements

Gloucester Township Council held its reorganization meeting Wednesday, Jan. 2. No new council members were elected to council last year.

During the meeting, Orlando Mercado was elected to serve as council president once again, while Tracey Trotto was voted as vice president.

Also at the meeting, council members were appointed as liaisons to specific organizations, which can be found at the Gloucester Township website.

After reorganization, public comments from residents had two issues discussed regarding the future of the township.

Resident Sam Sweet had inquired about the state of emergency services being provided to residents through GT EMS, a nonprofit organization that provides services to the township and Pine Hill, at a meeting last month.

At this meeting, Mercado stated the township had moved to a different organization to provide ambulance services.

“The township has decided to sever ties with Gloucester Township EMS Alliance,” Mercado said. “American Medical Response, which is a national organization, is now temporarily providing ambulance services to residents of Gloucester Township.”

Mercado said later in a phone call with The Sun the switch was made due to concerns over the coverage and additional issues with GT EMS.

“There were some concerns that were raised by the fire chief that due to staffing issues that the EMS was dropping down to one ambulance overnight in Gloucester Township, so that’s a violation of the contract,” Mercado said. “It was also learned that they could not staff a ‘power truck,’ which goes from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., also due to a decrease in staffing.”

Additionally, Mercado says the township felt that “several of the ambulances fell into a state of disrepair.”

Last month, he says the police department was made aware that GT EMS had several units taken out of service after an inspection by the state Office of Emergency Medical Services, furthering the township’s desire to switch ambulance providers.

“That basically shuttered the EMS service for a period of time,” Mercado said.

Lastly, Mercado said township administration had received numerous allegations of both financial malfeasance and patient care problems during GT EMS’ time with the township.

Mercado says this is the second time township administration and council has had to remove leadership or end a contract with GT EMS due to problems, with the other issue coming back in 2011 following financial problems. New leadership was installed at that time.

Mercado made sure to specify that GT EMS is a separate entity the township was receiving services from as a vendor, and since GT EMS was unable to fulfill the contract, the township has decided to move to a different provider.

Business Administrator Tom Cardis said at the meeting the township received two proposals in November to provide ambulance service, with one from GT EMS and the other being AMR, the organization now providing services.

“It was natural to go back to that proposal,” Cardis said. “When I spoke with representatives with GT EMS, they were just in a position that they could not continue to provide the services that were required.”

He also said that GT EMS agreed to help with the transition.

Currently, the two organizations are working together to provide ambulance services to Gloucester Township residents until AMR eventually becomes the sole provider, officials said.

When AMR takes over, its requirements will be the same GT EMS had agreed to back in January of 2018 — providing three ambulances Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., and two ambulances at all other times, such as overnight and holidays.

Cardis said there were various times over the past few weeks that GT EMS was not fulfilling the contract requirements for ambulance services for township residents.

“It was enough to concern us that we needed to have a discussion about it,” Cardis said. “There were problems with the ambulances themselves and problems getting staffing for the third ambulance. With that, we made the decision to look back at the proposals.”

GT EMS could not be reached for comment regarding these issues by deadline.

Also discussed at the meeting was the possibility of medical marijuana coming to Gloucester Township. Mayor David Mayer said he signed all letters he received stating interest in medical marijuana coming to the township if those applying for license were approved by the state.

However, the township stipulated that a dispensary would only be allowed to be built at the Nike Base location and the dispensary must lease the building from the township.

Although Mayer has had discussions with interested parties, Mercado said township council has not had any discussions on medical marijuana coming to the township, but he has spoken to the mayor about it.

Although Mayer did sign the applications for those interested in bringing a dispensary to Gloucester Township, the state has yet to finalize its regulations or award licenses.