Ambulance service receives positive reportSeeks EMS committee candidates
Warren — A preliminary report on the Warren Ambulance Service presented to the Board of Selectmen March 19 revealed its policies and procedures are sound.
More than 20 people, mostly emergency medical personnel from the area, were in attendance to listen and give input as Richard Petrie, executive director of Atlantic Partners EMS, presented his findings.
In addition to the policies and procedures being sound, Petrie stated the ambulance service structure is sound as well.
"What I suggest is that you create an EMS committee to have discussions on where you want to go from here," said Petrie, adding "You don't have to go anywhere. You can stay the way you are right now."
But he did indicate the demands on training and other requirements has made it increasingly difficult for volunteer departments to provide adequate EMS in the area.
"Attending to 350 calls a year — that's hard to do on your own," said Petrie of the Warren Ambulance Service.
The service has operated on five active volunteers for the last 15 years, according to Polly Wood, ambulance director.
Following some discussion on response times and current coverage, the selectmen agreed to form an EMS committee to investigate ways of improving the service.
"I want to acknowledge the dedication of the ambulance volunteers and the incredible contribution they have made to the town of Warren," Chairman Doug Pope addressed the audience.
"At the March 12 meeting, a member of the public commented that the only reason the selectmen were looking into the ambulance service is the nature of the call in December 2013. I want to clarify that although that event may have precipitated the study, it has been apparent for some time that the night and weekend volunteer ambulance service has been stretched much too thin and that the Warren ambulance service itself has acknowledged the need for such a study," Pope continued.
Pope stated that both Robert Wood, assistant director and Polly Wood, director, have discussed with the town manager the impact of the increasing number of calls to the Warren Ambulance Service.
"The town has outgrown the volunteer night ambulance service, and the ambulance service has known this for some time," said Pope.
Pope explained the purpose of the study led by Petrie is to assist the town in assessing the next steps going forward. He said the selectmen intend to look at the alternatives with the participation of the ambulance service.
Preliminary comments by Petrie indicated the town needs to look into four key areas:
— how to collaborate with other towns and services to achieve the level of ambulance service that town residents need and deserve;
— whether dispatch protocols at Knox County should be modified;
— how volunteer recruitment can be improved until the ambulance service study is resolved; and
— contracting billing out for the ambulance service
Pope said Polly Wood is already working with Town Manager Elaine Clark who is preparing a Request for Proposal or RFP for outside companies specializing in ambulance service billing and collection. Along with this, Pope said the selectmen will need to look at prior policy which allowed bills to be written off.
The composition of the committee that will look at alternatives to the current ambulance service should include a selectman, the town manager, ambulance service administration, a Warren citizen, a representative from a town near Warren, according to Pope.
Pope gave examples of some alternative options available to the town, including joining forces with other towns to create shared services; contract the service or a portion of it out to a provider; develop a hybrid volunteer/shared service or volunteer/contracted service model; and fund a paid per diem night ambulance crew.
He acknowledged that most options will include additional cost to the town — which will be assessed as part of the committee's study.
"I will remain involved with the committee going forward as long as they need and want my assistance," said Petrie, adding "I think that they are on the right track."
"This is a problem faced by small communities everywhere, and it really requires a thoughtful, reasoned approach to find the right solution for the citizens," he said.
Courier Publications reporter Beth A. Birmingham can be reached at 594-4401 ext. 125 or via email at email@example.com.