ELLSWORTH, Maine — As one of the state’s rural hospitals, Maine Coast Memorial in Ellsworth doesn’t typically see many patients with gunshot wounds come through the emergency room doors.
In fact, a year can pass without hospital staff seeing any.
So when four men with gunshot wounds came into the emergency department early one morning in March, all of the trauma training provided to hospital staff was tested in a high-profile manner.
“It wasn’t by chance that things worked out well,” said Cameron Bird, the emergency department nurse manager at Maine Coast Memorial Hospital. It was through the preparation and collaboration of staff — “the doctors, the nurses and really the whole hospital,” Bird said — that they were able to handle the sudden surge of trauma patients.
On Wednesday, Maine Coast Memorial was honored by the Maine Department of Public Safety as the Maine Trauma System Hospital of the Year in recognition of the trauma training that enabled staff to handle something like a quadruple shooting.
Representatives from Maine Emergency Medical Services stressed that the award is not given for any specific event but, instead, recognizes that “ongoing trauma training has positioned the hospital to manage critical trauma events.”
But officials said the March 11 shooting in nearby Lamoine highlighted the effectiveness of the training at a rural hospital that, although not one of the state’s designated “trauma centers,” plays a critical role in patients’ initial care and, therefore, survival.
“That’s something that would challenge the resources of the trauma center at Eastern Maine [Medical Center in Bangor], much less a smaller hospital,” Jay Bradshaw, director of Maine EMS, said of the quadruple shooting.
Bird and Barbara Hocking, the hospital’s chief operations officer and chief nursing officer, said training and cross-department collaboration are important at any small facility due to the limited resources.
Maine Coast Memorial also works closely with EMMC — the closest trauma center — and is able to quickly assess, stabilize and then transfer patients who need more advanced care. A new emergency department and a helicopter landing pad located next to the hospital have further streamlined that process, they said.
Citing confidentiality issues, Bird and Hocking declined to discuss details of the hospital’s response to the March 11 incident. Four men were shot — one fatally — during an early morning altercation at a house in Lamoine. Most victims arrived in personal vehicles, not ambulances, and police quickly swarmed the hospital as the investigation began.
There have been no charges to date in the quadruple shooting, and Maine State Police continue to investigate, spokesman Stephen McCausland said Wednesday.
Bird and Hocking said staff from departments throughout the hospital responded to the ER to help treat those involved in the predawn shooting, with some coming in early to help out. But despite the high-profile nature of the incident, Hocking and Bird said the response wasn’t much different than, say, a severe car accident involving multiple people.
“On any given day, we might be in the same situation and the staff here is ready,” Bird said.
Bradshaw noted that Maine Coast was also the first hospital in the state to offer training through the Rural Trauma Team Development program, which brings ER staff together for joint training. That program brings in representatives from the state’s trauma centers as well as the LifeFlight helicopter service to help train staff at the rural hospitals on standardized care protocols.
Other Maine EMS awards distributed Wednesday included:
• HeartSafe Community awards to Newfield Rescue Squad, Berwick Fire Department, Bethel Ambulance Service, Biddeford Fire Department and Rockland Fire Department for their efforts to provide training and education to the community and first responders on cardiac issues.
• The Governor’s Award to Dr. Mark Silver, an emergency physician at Redington Fairview Hospital in Skowhegan who has been an advocate and leader in EMS for more than 30 years.
• The Excellence in EMS Award to Peter Wade, a paramedic from Farmington who has worked as an EMS provider, administrator and educator in Franklin County for 30 years.
• The EMS Merit Award to William Nichols, EMT-intermediate from Steuben, who has worked with Petit Manan Ambulance for more than 30 years and is a certified nursing assistant at Maine Coast Memorial Hospital.