Police responded to the intersection of Route 37 and Colonial Drive for a report of a motor-vehicle crash involving an ambulance and a pickup truck.
When police arrived, they found a Quality Medical Transport Ford E-Series ambulance on its side just east of the intersection. They also saw a 2015 Chevrolet Silverado in the eastbound lanes of Route 37 with extensive front-end damage, police said.
Police said an initial investigation determined that the ambulance was traveling eastbound on Route 37 when it collided with the Silverado as it was crossing the highway from the southbound side of Colonial Drive.
The driver of the ambulance, 25-year-old Jennifer Garelick of Barnegat, and a rear passenger in the ambulance, 22-year-old Nicole Christiano of Toms River, were flown to Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune. The patient in the ambulance, 73-year-old Marie Hilton of Whiting, was transported by ground to Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune.
They all remain in stable condition with non-life threatening injuries as of Saturday night.
The driver of the pickup truck, 40-year-old Dajuan Smith of Toms River, sustained minor injuries and declined medical attention at the scene, police said.
The Ocean County Sheriff's Office Crime Scene Investigation (CSI) Unit, the Ocean County Prosecutors' Vehicular Homicide Unit, Manchester Volunteer First Aid Squad and members of the Manchester and Ridgeway volunteer fire departments responded to the scene.
A Jersey City Medical Center-Barnabas Health EMT was taken to the hospital with minor injuries after his ambulance was involved in an accident on Communipaw Avenue Monday night, police said.
Police said the EMT suffered a minor head contusion and was brought to JCMC, where he was treated and released, hospital spokesman Mark Rabson said.
The EMT who was driving the ambulance told police they were responding to an emergency on Communipaw Avenue shortly before 6:50 p.m. and parked the vehicle facing west in the eastbound lane, according to an accident report.
The EMT who was riding in the passenger seat told police he opened his door after seeing it was clear, but a Nissan Maxima driven by a 19-year-old Jersey City resident immediately struck the ambulance door, the report states.
However, the driver of the Nissan told cops that she was attempting to pass the ambulance, which was parked, when the side door swung open and struck her vehicle, the report states.
No other injuries were reported.
It was supposed to be one of Patel's final calls. Saturday was her last day of work and she was scheduled to start graduate school next month, according to her friends and family.
Patel, 22, was killed, Zebro said. Seube, 22, of Hamilton, and the driver of the car, Kathleen Meade, 58, of East Brunswick, were taken to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital with non-life threatening injuries. The driver of the car that the ambulance slid into was not hurt.
A few minutes before 8 a.m. the call went horribly wrong, when the ambulance, a 2008 Ford, was struck by a Toyota Prius as it went through the intersection of Cranbury Road and Ryders Lane, East Brunswick Police Lt. Kevin Zebro said in a news release. The ambulance overturned and slid into another car.
Bianca Patel, no relation, said she was Hinal's best friend, attending Piscataway High School and Rutgers with her. Earlier Saturday, Bianca said, she received a note and a picture from Hinal.
"She had said 'Today's going to be a long day,'" Bianca said. "That was her Snapchat. It was supposed to be her last day on call."
Friends and relatives said Hinal was starting graduate school next month at Rutgers-Newark, with an eye toward attending medical school. Rutgers University spokesman Greg Trevor said Patel had graduated from Rutgers this year with a degree in biological sciences and was enrolling in the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences.
Maximino Murrieta-Sanchez, 26, of Perth Amboy, was pronounced dead at the scene of the crash at 1:47 a.m., State Police spokesperson Trooper Alina Spies said.
The crash occurred at about 1:30 a.m. when a silver 2000 Volkswagen Jetta operated by Murrieta-Sanchez exited the State Street south ramp onto Route 440 north, Spies said.
Murrieta-Sanchez lost control of his vehicle near milepost 4 on Route 440 and struck the curb and the metal bridge guardrail before overturning, Spies said.
A Honda Accord traveling north on Tennant Road ran off the road to the right for an unknown reason and crashed into several trees at about 1:10 a.m., Marlboro Police Capt. Fred Reck said. At least one of the occupants was partially ejected from the vehicle, he said.
A 20-year-old Manalapan man and an 18-year-old Marlboro woman were taken to CentraState Medical Center where they were pronounced dead, Reck said
On June 16, 2015, MONOC will begin utilizing Pediatric Emergency Medicine Physicians at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center to provide prehospital medical consultation to Paramedics caring for children under 13 years of age. Paramedics will speak to these highly specialized physicians via phone for all children under 13 who required advanced care. According to Dr. Mark A. Merlin, MONOC’s System Medical Director and Chief Medical Officer, "We know that children do better when being cared for by Pediatric Emergency Medicine Physicians in an Emergency Department, so it only makes sense that the next logical step in providing even better pre-hospital care is to utilize these same specialty physicians while the child is still out in the field.” Merlin added, “We are excited to be leading the way in New Jersey to provide even better prehospital care for our children.”
The federal government's four-month crackdown on ambulance companies that fraudulently bill Medicare to take patients to non-emergency dialysis, chemotherapy and wound care is continuing to have a dual impact: reducing the number of ambulance carriers and confounding patients and their families.
Medicare fraud crackdown in New Jersey ensnaring more patients and ambulance companies
The New Jersey Department of Health this week reported that 11 ambulance providers have given up their licenses since the beginning of the year, although surviving operators say the actual number of shuttered businesses may be twice that or more.
"What I keep hearing is it's 20 to 25 that are closed," said John Bush, owner of On Time Ambulance in Roselle. "I think there's a few more that are on their heels right now."
Still, even 11 closures are well above levels from recent years, when health department officials said at the most three closures a year would be the norm.
Ambulance companies and patients complain that the sweep of the program entangles legitimate operators and patients who truly need their services, as well as those gaming the system.
The decision to shut down can happen abruptly to patients and caregivers.
Holy Name Medical Center in Teaneck heard one day in late March that Aaron Ambulance in Hackensack would not make its scheduled runs the following day. That following day, it called to say it was closing for good, spokeswoman Katherine Emmanouilidis said.
She said the hospital worked with another company out of Hackensack to cover Aaron's former patients.
Phone numbers for Aaron have been disconnected.
Health department spokeswoman Dawn Thomas said the 11 companies that have closed since Jan. 1 reported that Medicare's pre-authorization requirements, instituted in New Jersey in mid-December, are the primary reason for the closures.
Medicare began the crackdown after a government audit of New Jersey revealed that from 2002 to 2011 the growth in ambulance transports was nearly twice the national average and the number of trips per patient was up about 60 percent.
Overall, Medicare during that period saw billing for non-emergency transportation increase 130 percent to $4.5 billion a year nationally.
Medicare pays for non-emergency transportation only when a patient must be carried on a stretcher. If the patient can be moved in a wheelchair or can walk, Medicare does not pay.
The pre-authorization program has clamped down, according to patients and ambulance companies. Throughout 2015, patients and ambulance companies have said that people whose doctors determined that they qualified for stretcher service found the Medicare program administrator for New Jersey, Novitas Solutions, routinely denying authorization.
Applications continue to be denied for any number of reasons, including illegible doctor's notes, ambulance companies say.
"We have found that one of the hardest things is the notes that are required now to substantiate medical necessity are poorly written or you can't read them," Bush said. "Legibility is a huge one."
Without authorization, patients and ambulance companies are left with a choice: Find another way to get to life-sustaining treatment, use the same provider and hope to gain authorization on appeal or pay out of pocket.
Watchung resident Eunice Aridi said Medicare has declared that her father qualifies for Medicare-covered transport to get to his thrice-weekly dialysis, but still has been denied because his documentation lacks details.
"It has gone unbelievably terrible," she said. "I have all kinds of doctor certification statements, therapist notes, hospital records describing the reason my father needs a stretcher transport and Medicare has not given the approval."
She said she's paying $300 a week to transport him while she waits on appeals. Without dialysis, Aridi said, "he will surely die within weeks."
Bush said that he has hired a nurse full-time to educate patients and doctors about the requirements for authorization.
The goal of pre-authorization is not to put companies out of business, said William Polglase of the office of communications at the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. It's to tighten oversight, he said.
He also said CMS has no plans at this point to expand the program past New Jersey and the other two states that had excessive billing, Pennsylvania and South Carolina.
Another ambulance operator, who did not want NJ Advance Media to use his name because he fears retribution, said most of his Medicare authorization requests have been denied and eventually end up before an administrative law judge, who he said approves them.
"I have a ton of claims that have to go through this process," he said. "We're basically hanging on by a thread."
Tighe received the award at the 19th Annual EMS Awards Dinner held at Overlook Hospital in Summit, on May 19. Tighe was one of several area EMTs who were honored for their excellence as an EMT and their dedication to volunteer service.
Tighe joined the all-volunteer rescue squad in 1997. He has held many squad operational officer positions in his nearly two decades of service.In addition to his EMT volunteer work, Tighe also volunteers his time serving military veterans. He is a previous commander of the Westfield American Legion and served in the U.S. Marine corps from 1982-1986.
An Emergency Medical Technician at a Woodbridge facility that cares for the developmentally disabled has been accused of falsifying her hours and claiming to have worked shifts when she was actually at a second job, officials said.
Martha Gonzalez was charged with theft by deception and falsification of government records earlier this month, said Nicole Brossoie, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Human Services.
Gonzalez worked at both the Woodbridge Developmental Center as an EMT and at East Jersey State Prison in Avenel as a medical technician, Brossoie said. Gonzalez allegedly would make her shifts overlap between the two jobs, meaning she would collect pay for performing both jobs even though she was only at one of the facilities, authorities said.
The charges were filed March 13, after a months-long investigation, Brossoie said.
Gonzalez earned an annual salary of $48,209 to serve as an EMT at the Woodbridge center, according to public records.
The developmental center is scheduled to close in January, one of two centers for persons with developmental disabilities that Gov. Chris Christie announced plans to shut down earlier this year. Relatives of several residents at the homes have filed a federal lawsuit hoping to block the move.
Calls to the developmental center seeking comment were not returned.