Howland, Lincoln ambulance services launch, replace hospital service

Posted July 03, 2013, at 7:52 p.m.

HOWLAND, Maine — It was only one call into its young life Wednesday afternoon and awaiting a needed part, but the Howland Fire and EMS Service is operational and performing well, officials said.

The Howland Fire Department’s single ambulance went online covering Howland, Edinburg, Passadumkeag, Sebois and Maxfield at 6 p.m. Sunday, but didn’t receive its first medical call until Tuesday, Town Manager Tracey Hutton said.

The East Millinocket and Lincoln fire departments’ ambulance service, which covers 14 northern Penobscot County towns including Lincoln, Lee, East Millinocket and Medway, launched at the same time and had no problems, East Millinocket firefighters said.

Both services sprang from Penobscot Valley Hospital’s decision earlier this year to drop its ambulance service. Penobscot Valley CEO David Shannon has said that the hospital was considering dropping its ambulance service because it was unprofitable.

East Millinocket, Howland and Lincoln officials expect that the new services will draw more revenue to the towns than could Penobscot Valley because federal and state reimbursement rates are higher for municipalities than hospitals.

“Our hope is that it will be a seamless transition from PVH to” the Howland service, Hutton said. “Whether or not that is the case, we will find out in the next few weeks.”

Lincoln’s service seems to be off to a good start, Lincoln Town Council Chairman Steve Clay said.

With the Lincoln setup, Lincoln firefighters serve as drivers and East Millinocket provides emergency medical technicians. East Millinocket pays Lincoln $75 per call. About $90,000 would be generated with 1,200 calls and $112,500 would come from 1,500 calls, town officials have said.

Howland officials, who opted to launch a service on their own after Millinocket withdrew from a tentative arrangement, have allocated about $67,000 from several town budget lines to operate the service, Hutton said.

The allocation will provide gap funding until billings start to cover expenses, Hutton said. Town officials are looking to get a second ambulance to cover the department’s area if multiple calls emerge or mechanical problems occur.

Howland Fire Chief Phil Dawson said his department has no formal agreement with Lincoln and East Millinocket fire departments to cover Howland’s area.

As they do with other departments they cover, dispatchers at Penobscot Regional Communication Center will triage emergency calls or find alternative ambulance services to handle any significant flood of emergencies or patient transfers, said Dawson, who is Lincoln’s former fire chief.

Howland officials said the transition from PVH to their service has been handled quickly but well. An official at the Maine Emergency Medical Services Agency said Tuesday that Howland received its state service license on June 27.

Howland’s service is also insured through Maine Municipal Association, Hutton said.

Howland’s station is manned around the clock by paid ambulance drivers and emergency service workers, two workers on each 12-hour shift, said Angela Helms, Howland’s EMS service chief.

The single call came Tuesday morning in Passadumkeag. Anyone with questions about the ambulance service or who is qualified and interested in working as a Howland emergency service provider should call the town office at 732-4112.

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