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Meeting airs ambulance service deficiencies

By Susan Mustapich | Aug 06, 2019
Source: YouTube Town of Camden channel Camden, Rockport and Rockland fire chiefs share independent data on the performance of North East Mobile Health Services' emergency ambulance services with town managers Bill Post of Rockport and Audra Caler-Bell of Camden, and Camden Select Board members July 30.

Camden — Deficiencies of the privately owned emergency ambulance service covering the towns of Camden, Rockport, Lincolnville and Hope were presented by Camden Fire Chief Chris Farley to Camden and Rockport town managers and Camden Select Board members at a July 30 workshop.

In response, Camden Town Manager Audra Caler-Bell and Select Board Chairman Bob Falciani, new Rockport Town Manager Bill Post and Select Board Chairman Deb Hall have met and divided up tasks to address the deficiencies. Caler-Bell said Aug. 6 that she is addressing enforcement of requirements in the current contract with North East Mobile Health Services.

Farley has compiled a list of specific examples where North East was not able to provide emergency ambulance service when needed, lack of supervision at North East's Rockport operations base, and analysis of Knox County Communications Center data showing the number of times that the nine-minute response time to Camden 911 calls was not met. He presented examples at the July 30 workshop, which Rockland Fire Chief Chris Whytock and Rockport Fire Chief Jason Peasley also attended.

Farley reviewed what he sees as systemic problems with North East's relationship to the public safety departments in the area. He states that North East "frequently leaves the region with little to no EMS coverage and does not communicate this to us and our regional partners," and does not inform the communities about other issues that could cause service delivery problems.

North East relies on mutual aid from Rockland Fire and EMS when it does not have an ambulance available for a 911 call, Farley said. He documented 41 times North East relied on Rockland to provide an ambulance between June 1, 2018, and May 31, 2019. While relying on mutual aid from Rockland, North East does not inform Camden or Rockland about its daily staffing levels, Farley said.

On May 29, Rockland Fire Chief Chris Whytock met with North East's top administration and requested regular communications on daily staffing levels so his operation and North East "could work cooperatively to provide coverage," according to Farley. Whytock offered to bring in additional staff to cover when North East did not have enough staffing. While he received pledges from North East's top executives to work together, that agreement only lasted one day, according to Farley, and Rockland had to cover a 911 call in the four towns without any notice from North East.

Farley states that North East's base in Rockport has had four division managers since 2013, and currently is supervised by the company's director of operations in Scarborough. At the meeting, he provided an example of how inadequate management led to "sub-standard actions by staff." He described the scene of an August 2015 house fire in Lincolnville where two people died. Farley recounted how the patients were rescued from the house and placed on the front lawn, and how he had to go to the ambulance and tell the crew to get out and help the patients. In his memo, he writes that they were sitting there "with paralyzing, shocked expressions on their faces." His memo says the patients did not receive true attention until the Rockland ambulance arrived.

More recently, one North East employee assaulted another at the Rockport base July 2, and is still working for the company, Farley reports.

Caler-Bell and Farley described communication and negotiations with North East management as very difficult. They explained that there has been a reluctance to discuss deficiencies in meetings with the four towns.

Farley said July 30 he is relieved that "we're talking about this." He said he has "gone many nights without sleep thinking about what we can do better." He said North East's model, which involves providing patient transportation between hospitals and health facilities, is part of the problem. He said the fire departments are making up for the gap in North East's services. He and Whytock support regional fire and EMS service, with three ambulances, staffed around the clock, located in Rockland, Rockport and Camden.

Falciani asked for data to support the claims of deficiencies in North East's service, and rapid action to enforce the current contract with the four towns.

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Comments (2)
Posted by: Jeff Grinnell | Aug 12, 2019 10:43

EMS services for Hope prior to Northeast was provided by Camden First Aid Association  and Union Ambulance. Hope FD still provides a fine traditional volunteer service to Hope though they struggle like all vol. FDs for coverage during the day hardly anyone works in town anymore. When CFAA went under, Northeast bid and the 5 towns decided to go with them. Northeast is a "for profit" ambulance service that does a majority of inter-facility transfer services along with some 911 emergency contracts.

Posted by: Mary A McKeever | Aug 07, 2019 13:49

What a shameful mess! It used to be in Hope, that the firemen volunteered their services and the companies paid them for the time away from work. North East sounds like a conglomerate that does not care for neighbors like the volunteers did. Time changes and now towns pay for what they get. In this case "Nothing"!

Mary (Brown) McKeever, Prior Hope store owner and Postmaster.

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