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Jersey City hospital beating traffic with EMS bike program

By Nicolas Fernandes | The Jersey Journal, August 21, 2014 at 4:58 PM

Jersey City Medical Center-Barnabas Health has expanded its emergency medical service bicycle program to reach all the nooks and crannies of Jersey City that the hospital's larger vehicles can't reach.

The program, which has been run by the JCMC EMS for more than 15 years, now sends emergency medical technicians (EMTs) on bicycles to congested areas in Jersey City on a daily basis. Before the expansion, the bikes were only used for special events.

"We're able to get the bicycles into more congested areas more quickly (than an ambulance)," JCMC EMS Coordinator Rick Sposa said.

The hospital's EMS has been sending paramedics on bikes to areas such as Liberty State Park and Downtown Jersey City during the evenings.

"It's a great resource that we have. When units are busy, we can fill in the gaps," EMT Michael Felix said.

The EMS team came up with the idea when detours from construction on the Pulaski Skyway and Newark Avenue walkway caused an increase in traffic. There are currently six bikes being used for the program and the EMS is hoping to add more, officials said.

The goal, Sposa said, is to make sure the EMS "maintains its excellent response time."

Bike-mounted EMTs had to complete a physical and numerous hours of training, as well as an obstacle course to show they could handle the rigors of the job.

Strapped to the bike are the same medical supplies -- weighing about 50 pounds -- carried in an ambulance.

EMTs who use bikes work two four-hour shifts with a four-hour break in between, Sunday through Thursday. An EMT driving an ambulance works a 12-hour shift.

Some of them have to put in a lot of effort and are tired at the end of their shift especially on hot days, Sposa said.

"A lot of them are using it as exercise," Sposa said.

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