BY TRONE DOWD
A state assemblyman from Queens is outraged over the Port Authority Police Department’s decision to remove medical units that provided free immediate care to travelers in emergency situations from John F. Kennedy International Airport.
In a letter to the Port Authority, Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Fresh Meadows) expressed his dismay with the decision, citing concerns over the negative effects that it would have not only on his “constituents, but for the people across the state, country and world who choose to travel through [John F. Kennedy Airport].”
The PAPD’s medical unit, which currently operates exclusively out of JFK, is expected to be disbanded and put on other posts around the city. Weprin said that he heard news of the decision though the Port Authority Police Benevolent Association.
“For over 35 years, the emergency response provided by the PAPD Emergency Medical Unit has saved thousands of lives provided critical care for sick passengers and employees at the airport and transported thousands of sick and injured people each year from JFK to area hospitals at no cost for those who utilize the service,” Weprin wrote. “In addition, the PAPD provided ambulance service, as a police operated ambulance can access FAA restricted areas without being escorted by police, offering faster response times than a private ambulance, which would require an escort.”
The PAPD said that the decision came about as a way to better use the resources available to them. Officers from the medical unit will be relocated to other areas at the airport and throughout the city.
A spokesman for the PAPD told the PRESS of Southeast Queens that concerns over relying on local medical facilities are not a cause of concern. He added that local hospitals can provide service that is exponentially better than what the medical units had been doling out for years.
“They are providing advanced life support ambulances, compared to the basic life support [BLS] ambulances that we operate today,” spokesman Steve Coleman said.
He explained that Advanced Life Support (ALS) ambulances are staffed with paramedics and EMTs as well as treatment supplies, such as IVs, cardiac monitors, incubation equipment, ventilators and more. BLS ambulances, on the other hand, do not have any of these tools.
“We believe this change is going to provide excellent medical coverage for all the passengers who may have needed it at JFK,” Coleman said.
Despite the PAPD’s claims, Weprin criticized the plans.
“Although I understand the effort to streamline services at the Port Authority and appreciate [the] efforts to do so, I believe that this proposal to remove an ambulance operated by the PAPD, only so that the PAPD would have to over a police escort for a private ambulance at JFK is short sighted and lack in common sense,” he said.
Reach reporter Trone Dowd at (718) 357-7400, ext. 123 or firstname.lastname@example.org.