ISLAND FALLS, Maine — Selectmen worked late into the night Thursday to cobble together high-level ambulance coverage for Island Falls and neighboring towns after a series of events left Island Falls without an ambulance director or paramedics.
The chain of events that crippled the ambulance department began when Paul Breton II, 26, then the deputy chief of the Island Falls Fire Department and a paramedic in the town’s ambulance department, resigned after being charged with felony theft.
Maine State Police allege that Breton misappropriated about $10,000 in town funds by presenting receipts for reimbursement to the town for purchases unrelated to the Fire Department he had made from various businesses.
Late last month, Joshua McNally, the town’s fire chief and ambulance director, informed selectmen that he would resign in 30 days. Town Clerk Cheryl McNally said at the time that Joshua McNally, who is not related to her, resigned in light of harassment he received in the aftermath of the incident with Breton.
Those who attended the meeting Thursday evening agreed with the town clerk, adding that the chief’s resignation occurred because of the lack of support he received from selectmen.
McNally also is a paramedic who oversaw an ambulance department that provides services to Island Falls, Dyer Brook, Crystal and Oakfield. The town’s ambulance service, under McNally’s direction, provided advanced life support services. It was staffed by paramedics who could perform numerous high-level procedures, including intubations, medication administration and other advanced life support procedures. The ambulance department also employs emergency medical technicians, who cannot perform as many procedures as paramedics.
Now that the ambulance service is staffed only by EMTs, it cannot provide the level of service it offered when paramedics were on board.
On Thursday evening, an angry audience blamed selectmen for the predicament. When an audience member called for the resignation of all of the selectmen, the gymnasium erupted in applause.
During Thursday’s meeting, selectmen said that McNally told them he would hire paramedics and complete all the necessary chores required to transition out of his job before his 30 days were up. In the meantime, selectmen said, each board member was talking individually with McNally in the hopes of getting him to rescind his resignation.
That did not happen. By Thursday evening, seven firefighters and ambulance personnel had resigned from their positions in solidarity. Some resigned as late as Thursday morning.
That left the town without any full-time paramedics on staff and without the ability to provide advanced life support services to its own town or those with which it has contracts.
The chief did not attend the meeting and could not be reached for further comment Friday.
Audience members fired questions at the selectmen throughout the three-hour meeting. Several people pointed out that the town had a month to find a replacement for McNally. Some attendees accused the board of not supporting McNally or helping him deal with the harassment. Others said selectmen did not do enough to get McNally to stay.
Representatives from the contracting towns also attended, reminding selectmen that under the terms of their towns’ contracts with the ambulance service, they were guaranteed that two paramedics would be on staff.
Audience members also wondered why none of the contracting towns was told until recently what was happening with Island Falls involving resignations and the loss of paramedics.
Selectmen stressed that McNally assured them he would take care of the staffing situation, telling the audience he was authorized to hire personnel. The selectmen reiterated they had worked until Wednesday evening to get McNally to rescind his resignation.
“We also never dreamed it would blow up like this,” Selectman Donald Hallett said. “We did not know that we would have all of these resignations come at us as well.”
The town’s Fire Department also was affected by the resignations. Personnel who are left will meet soon to choose someone to lead the crew.
An hour into the meeting, audience members urged selectmen to call McNally at home and ask him to stay on board another two weeks until new staff could be hired. Selectmen called McNally with the request, but he informed them he had accepted a full-time job in Lincoln earlier that day.
By the end of the meeting, all of the towns that contracted with Island Falls for ambulance service had found high-level temporary coverage through other ambulance departments. Selectmen were meeting with a potential paramedic to staff the department Friday and were going to advertise for personnel to rebuild the fire and ambulance departments.
Board of Selectmen members are Brady Hatch, Hallett, Lewis Conrad, George Clements and Jeff Brooks.