As the Rockport Division Commander for North East Mobile Health Services, I would like to respond to Samantha Clark's guest column. My name is Dennis Simmons. I have lived in the area my whole life and have been in Emergency Medical Services since 2000, starting as a volunteer driver for my home town service.

First and foremost, let me say that I and everyone here at North East Mobile Health have nothing but the utmost respect for the great work that the folks at Camden First Aid do. They are excellent providers and care about the communities that they serve. However, this issue is not about them.

Julia Libby is correct in many of her arguments about the obstacles EMS faces. In many instances EMS has been given away for free for far too long. Who knew some 30 years ago that EMS would progress into the level that we have reached today? However, it has not been without “growing pains.” We struggle as a group to earn the recognition as professionals that our counterparts in the police and fire services have already achieved. This keeps funding low, and ultimately results in wages and benefits that make it difficult to attract and keep competent providers.

Ms. Clark points out correctly that national and state standards have created a level playing field in terms of treatment. But CFAA does not have an exclusive on exceptional care. All of North East’s providers offer an exceptional level of care and comfort. We routinely provide many of the “extras” she describes and then some, for more than 40,000 patients per year. And we do so because we love what we do.

North East is not a multi-national corporation with high priced CPAs and lawyers finding ways to send money overseas to avoid taxes. We are a Maine company, hiring Maine people, paying Maine income taxes and paying local property and excise taxes in the towns where we own property. In the towns where we lease property, we help enable the landlords to be able to pay their taxes. Remember, taxes help pay for the services we all expect of government at all levels. Not-for-profits do not pay taxes. North East provides an excellent wage and benefits package, putting more dollars back into our local economy. All of our current employees live locally — most, like myself, have lived here their entire lives. Any increase in our Rockport Division Office will result in local job openings — jobs available to local providers.

Funding for EMS is much like any other business. Costs, expenses and incomes change over time. As Julia Libby correctly points out, it is expensive to train and keep employees, and to purchase and maintain equipment and supplies. Proper management and oversight help to mitigate these expenses. Budgets will depend on local demand for services and staffing and budgeting will reflect those demands. Maintaining mutual aid agreements is important to any service, regardless of size, as at any time our resources may be tapped out, such as an accident with multiple patients. However, in the event of staffing shortages in the Rockport area, North East has the ability to shift some of its other resources to bridge the gap, without compromising coverage in other areas.

It has been mentioned that many for-profit companies enter into 911 contracts inexpensively to acquire a contract, only to come back in a year or two with huge increases in subsidies. In the case of North East this is simply not true. In fact, in the other Maine towns where we contract with for 911 service, we started with small subsidies. We have found we could offer the service without tax subsidies, period. Zero tax subsidies.

North East remains willing to create partnerships aimed at efficiencies in billing, purchasing, training, and maintenance, which helps lower the cost for providing EMS services to the communities. We are ready and willing to partner with any local agency desiring to build a first rate, cost effective EMS service that would be a model for the rest of the state and beyond.

Dennis Simmons is Rockport Division Commander for North East Mobile Health Services.