LINCOLN, Maine – Penobscot Valley Hospital is considering dropping the ambulance service it provides to 14 northern Penobscot County towns, hospital Chief Executive Officer David Shannon said Tuesday.
“We are looking at our options for the ambulance service at this point. Either we maintain it or get rid of it,” Shannon said. “The ambulance for us is sort of a secondary service to providing hospital care. It is difficult for us to find people to staff the ambulance.”
The service has also been losing money, Shannon said. He declined to say how much.
Penobscot Valley Hospital officials are having a study done of their options that they hope to have ready for the hospital Board of Directors meeting on Feb. 25, Shannon said.
Shannon said he doesn’t expect the future of the service to be decided immediately. Any decision would also take several months to implement, he said.
“We would not just turn it over to the towns,” Shannon said. “My anticipation is that we would meet with the surrounding town leaders if we were to leave the service” to give them a chance to digest the news and explore options.
When asked what Lincoln would do in response to the hospital leaving the ambulance business, Town Council Chairman Steve Clay referred comment to interim Town Manager William Lawrence. Lawrence did not immediately return messages left Tuesday.
The ambulance service consists of two ambulances and support staff, handling about 1,200 calls a year, Shannon said. One of the ambulances is based in Howland and covers towns in that area.
Lincoln’s fire department does not offer ambulance service, but some northern Penobscot County towns have ambulances that handle emergencies or patient transfers between Penobscot Valley and other medical facilities.
Those towns include Millinocket, East Millinocket and Mattawamkeag.