LINCOLN, Maine — Town and East Millinocket leaders working to extend an ambulance service into Lincoln will consider keeping an ambulance in Howland in response to complaints from that town’s manager about being left out of the planning process.
Howland Town Manager Tracey Hutton expressed satisfaction after East Millinocket and Lincoln leaders assured her that they would be interested in stationing an ambulance in Howland like Penobscot Valley Hospital does now if the hospital leaves the ambulance business.
“I think their response expressing willingness to place a third ambulance in Howland is reasonable,” Hutton said. “Hopefully we can work something out.”
East Millinocket officials blamed miscommunication, including a letter sent to Hutton’s predecessor that Hutton apparently never saw, for the exclusion of Howland leaders from talks about replacing the Penobscot Valley service with a East Millinocket and Lincoln fire department partnership.
Lincoln Town Councilors voted 5-0 to allow interim Town Manager William Lawrence to develop an agreement that would allow East Millinocket firefighters to place two ambulances at the Lincoln Public Safety Building if PVH’s board of directors opts to leave the business.
“We have the space,” Lincoln Fire Chief Phil Dawson told councilors. “We will have to jockey some trucks around [the garage at the public safety building], and double-stack trucks, but we can get two units in.”
The second ambulance would act as a backup when the first was handling calls. The combined service would cover about 1,200 square miles, the 14-town region Penobscot Valley presently covers, Dawson said.
East Millinocket would provide emergency medical technicians and Lincoln would provide drivers, with East Millinocket paying for four hours of overtime to fill in when both ambulances are handling emergencies, Lincoln Fire Chief Phil Dawson said.
East Millinocket would pay Lincoln $75 per call. About $90,000 would be generated with 1,200 calls and $112,500 would come from 1,500 calls, Dawson said.
The service would be cost-free to Lincoln’s town government and the revenue would go into Lincoln Fire Department equipment accounts, Dawson said.
Brown said he had not worked out yet how much revenue the expansion into Lincoln would provide East Millinocket.
Penobscot Valley CEO David Shannon has said that the hospital is considering dropping its ambulance service due to unprofitability. Dawson told councilors after the meeting that the towns could draw revenue from the service because federal and state reimbursement rates are higher for municipalities than hospitals.
East Millinocket and Lincoln officials will next wait to see whether the hospital’s board of directors opts to drop the service or continue it, officials said.
“I think we have a long way to go before we can make a final decision, but this was a good first step,” said Councilor Curt Ring, who was acting council chairman in Chairman Steve Clay’s absence.
The council will have final say next month on whether Lincoln gets into the ambulance business, Lawrence said.