UPDATE, 5:27 p.m. 6/26: New Jersey Department of Health spokeswoman Donna Leusner confirmed shortly after 5 p.m. Tuesday that three of five Gloucester Township EMS Alliance ambulances have been cleared to return to service.
She indicated that of the five ambulances found to have been in operation while unregistered, the registration for one had expired in March.
One thing is certain: Gloucester Township EMS Alliance, a private, nonprofit emergency-medical services provider based in the township's Erial section, will no longer be running its ambulances to emergency calls in Gloucester Township.
The reasons behind the township's decision to will likely be debated for months, if not years, to come, as the chief of the ousted ambulance squad claims the move is of a "political" nature.
Police Chief W. Harry Earle announced at a press conference Tuesday afternoon that state health officials earlier in the day, at around 8:15 a.m., had ordered the EMS Alliance ambulances temporarily placed out of service due to their being unregistered.
Asked by a reporter about EMS Alliance Chief Tom Eden Sr.'s assertion prior to the press conference that the ambulance service would be operational by Tuesday afternoon, Mayor David Mayer responded: "They're not going to be back in operation in Gloucester Township."
Kennedy Health System took over for EMS Alliance in Gloucester Township effective at 6 p.m. Tuesday evening.
Pine Hill and Runnemede dedicated two ambulances to respond solely to Gloucester Township calls in the interim, Earle said. The police chief also noted the emergency plan had township fire districts responding to all calls for potentially life-threatening matters over the roughly 10-hour period Tuesday.
"Let me be clear that as a result of this plan and the assistance from the Camden County Emergency Communications Center, our local fire departments and numerous neighboring communities...EMS services are being provided to our residents," Earle said.
Mayer indicated there were just three calls for EMS services in the township Tuesday between 8:15 a.m. and the start of the 2 p.m. press conference.
Township Business Administrator Tom Cardis indicated he reached out to Kennedy last week after police were informed EMS Alliance ambulances were not registered.
Township and personnel with the New Jersey Department of Health's Office of Emergency Medical Services conducted an inspection at the ambulance service's Woodshire Drive station house Tuesday morning.
This inspection of EMS Alliance vehicles revealed that five ambulances and a sport-utility vehicle were unregistered and two ambulances had not passed required inspections, Earle said. Another ambulance was not on scene during the inspection, reportedly having been sent off for repairs.
Earle noted there were additional "EMS code violations" with the ambulances.
During a visit to the EMS Alliances's Woodshire Drive station house following the press conference at the municipal complex, Eden told reporters the ambulances were registered, but that the state had not yet forwarded no-fee license plates matching the new registrations.
"I didn't realize it was going to take the state as long as it did," Eden said regarding the license plates.
Eden showed reporters what appeared to be a New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission registration card valid through January 2014 for an ambulance run by the EMS Alliance's Glendora squad.
As of publication of this article at 5:01 p.m. Tuesday, a Department of Health spokeswoman had not confirmed Eden's assertion that three of the five ambulances had already been cleared to return to service.
Mayer says the lack of proper vehicle registrations on the part of the EMS Alliance was the final straw for the township.
"Day-to-day management of this nonprofit organization is not only lacking but is in disarray," the mayor said. "Gloucester Township has been requesting a complete financial audit of the EMS Alliance, copies of their organizational charts, and other business documents to which nothing has been provided to us."
Mayer indicated officials told Eden during a meeting last week that the township was no longer recognizing him as EMS chief and that a new EMS provider was being sought.
Earle refuted Eden's assertion the township's decision to sever ties with the organization he heads was about "internal politics," as one reporter put it.
"All of the information we've requested for a long period of time, and we have received none of that," the chief said. "So that certainly is not politics. It's just we have a right to know this information here in Gloucester Township—to know that the organization is solid."
Township officials noted there was no contract between the township and EMS Alliance, which has been in existence since 2000 and bills its patients directly.
Mayer described Gloucester Township EMS Alliance as "staffed with many competent emergency-medical professionals."
Gloucester Township EMS has 45 employees, 15 of whom are full-time, Eden said.
Eden's son, Thomas Eden Jr., was arrested in early April on charges alleging he purchased prescription drugs from a confidential informant while on duty as a township police officer. He was suspended without pay following his arrest.