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Hearing Examiner Recommends Approval of Women-Staffed Volunteer Ambulance Service for Orthodox Jewish Women,

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You can read the report, about the Chasedi Devorah / Ezras Nashim service, here. The rationale:

The Applicant, Ezras Nashim, has the burden of proving the need to establish a new ambulance service. As has been discussed, need must be distinguished from the mere desire to expand services. The question of need can only be determined when all circumstances are considered.

Several circumstances tend to argue against the grant of an ambulance operating certificate. The chief reason is that the observant Jewish community is served by perhaps the most rapid medical response service in New York, Hatzolah. The size and swiftness of Hatzolah’s volunteers cannot be ignored.

Yet, we have the equally undeniable fact that perhaps 60% of women-involved emergency medical needs are either being [not] met or are being met to some degree in contravention of their cultural/religious concerns.

The Ambulance Committee is fully entitled to weigh the factors present here.

A conservative approach would deny the request for an ambulance certificate on the strength of faster response times by all-male Hatzolah, or slower non-culturally aware FDNY and other responders. But that approach ignores the clear need that exists among the Orthodox Jewish women.

This need is unique because of the insular community whose medical care this Application seeks to serve.

The Ambulance Committee need not fear of splintered “needs” being proposed for other societal groups. The Orthodox Jewish community is so inherently unique that an application like this one is not likely to be repeated or seen again.

The grant of a certificate of need for a discrete service area in the borough of Brooklyn is warranted.

The Ambulance Committee should take a proactive, prospective viewpoint when considering this application, not necessarily limiting its view to what worked in years past.

Though it is not readily a clear decision, I recommend that the Ambulance Committee grant the requested certificate of need based upon the totality of the evidence and circumstances presented by the Applicant, Ezras Nashim.

The report about the denial of the application is here (The Yeshiva World); there’s also a somewhat opinionated report of the controversy here (also at The Yeshiva World), noting the tension between Ezras Nashim supporters and Hatzoloh supporters.

I assume that Ezras Nashim won’t deny service to male callers, even though it will promote itself as a service for female callers; I expect that this would avoid claims of discrimination in public accommodations. (New York law defines “public accommodation” broadly, seemingly to include free services.) Also, being a volunteer service, it’s not covered by bans on discrimination in employment, assuming it really offers no compensation (including health insurance, retirement benefits, disability insurance, and the like). In any event, the report does not discuss these issues, and the Yeshiva World story doesn’t mention any discussion of the matter at the EMS Council meeting.

Thanks to Prof. Howard Friedman (Religion Clause) for the pointer.

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Eugene Volokh

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