June 24, 2018
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After 77 years, Camden area ambulance service might be priced out

By Stephen Betts, BDN Staff

CAMDEN, Maine — The Camden Area First Aid Association has served the community for 77 years but if a review panel’s recommendations are approved, the four towns in the Camden area will have a new emergency medical service provider later this year.

The review panel announced Wednesday night that it recommends that Camden, Rockport, Lincolnville and Hope contract with North East Mobile Health Services of Scarborough for emergency medical coverage for the next two years.

The proposed change was prompted when Camden First Aid announced in February that it needed a dramatically higher subsidy from each town. Camden First Aid’s subsidy request from the four towns combined skyrocketed from $57,000 for the current year to a proposed $407,000 for each of the next two years. Camden would have seen its payment for emergency medical services jump from $20,000 to $174,000. Rockport would have seen its payment go from $24,000 to $129,000. Lincolnville would have seen its cost rise from $10,000 to $77,000, and Hope’s payment would have gone from $2,000 to $27,000.

The four towns sought bids from other parties and North East Mobile was one of the three firms to submit proposals to serve all four towns. North East’s bid came in at $28,000 for the four towns combined. Of that amount, Rockport would pay $12,000, Camden $10,000, Lincolnville $5,000 and Hope $1,000.

North East’s bid was by far the lowest. Delta Ambulance of Waterville had submitted a bid of $552,640. Sterling Ambulance of Union had submitted a bid of $6,500 for serving Hope only.

Lincolnville Selectman Jason Trundy said the review panel was concerned about whether North East was submitting a low-ball bid in order to get the towns to go along for two years, by which time Camden First Aid may be out of business and then North East could name its price. Trundy said, however, that North East made a convincing argument that it already provides nonemergency ambulance service in the area and therefore, it has an underused base of operations and does not need a large subsidy.

Camden Select Board Chairman Martin Cates, who served on the review panel and moderated Wednesday night’s presentation, stressed that the final decision will rest with each town.

Each Select Board will hold public forums in their towns over the next two weeks, Cates said, and then voters will decide how much money to allocate for emergency medical services at the annual town meetings. The contracts would be decided on by the boards.

Cates said if not all towns agree to go with the same company, the issue could remain unsettled.

He pointed out that the panel did not look only at cost but also at quality of service, scope of service, experience, operations and each firms’ business models.

Camden First Aid’s business management and business model came in low, the panel concluded.

The Camden Select Board chairman said, however, that the committee was confident in the quality of care by Camden First Aid. Budget pressures triggered the need to seek bids.

Camden Select Board member John French agreed.

“At the end of the day, it’s about the money,” French said. “We’ve got a free ride for at least the 16 years I’ve been on the board.”

Lincolnville and Rockport will hold public forums on June 3 for feedback from their residents. Camden will hold a meeting on June 4 and Hope on June 11.

Half of Hope is served by Camden First Aid while the other half is by the Union ambulance.

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