YORK, Maine — The bottom line of having the nonprofit York Ambulance Association expand its emergency transport service to South Berwick and Rollinsford, New Hampshire, is that residents of all three towns should notice no change in response times nor, in most cases, personnel, according to Eric Bakke, who serves on York Ambulance’s board of directors.
The contract went into effect July 1.
Bakke first wanted to reassure York residents.
“From a 911 perspective, nothing changes in York,” Bakke said Monday. “There’s no overlap of crews.”
York Ambulance Association has asked staff in South Berwick to stay on and is going through a hiring process, Bakke said. Ambulance service is staffed through July, he said.
The service is expected to save South Berwick money in capital expenses and personnel while keeping most, if not all, of the current ambulance employees, according to South Berwick Town Manager Perry Ellsworth and South Berwick Rescue Chief Bill Reichert. The move also resolves financial issues created by the reduction of payments from Medicaid and Medicare and the lack of revenue from answering calls that don’t result in a transport, according to Ellsworth.
The contract also helps York Ambulance Association, as it allows for the expansion of nonemergency transports, according to Bakke.
“We have looked at York Ambulance, at ways to manage the bottom line as effectively and efficiently as possible, while preserving quality of 911 service,” Bakke said of the organization founded in 1972. “We look at transfers to bring in additional revenue.”
York Ambulance began nonemergency transfer service in 2013 working largely with York Hospital, according to Bakke. Expanding into other towns allows for an increase in the number of nonemergency transports to such facilities such as Wentworth-Douglass Hospital in Dover, New Hampshire, he said.
Residents of all three towns who become members of York Ambulance Association may get nonemergency transport at no additional cost, if the transfer is deemed medically necessary, according to Bakke.
Individual membership is $75 per year; family membership is $85.
South Berwick Rescue previously provided ambulance service for its residents and those of neighboring Rollinsford.
Last month, the South Berwick Town Council voted to enter into a three-year contract with York Ambulance Association, at a cost of $94,800 a year. A priority of the agreement, Ellsworth said in June, was for an ambulance to remain in South Berwick, which York Ambulance has agreed to.
York continues to maintain three ambulances in York, and now one in South Berwick, according to Bakke.
The price for South Berwick ambulance service remains about the same. South Berwick had budgeted $82,000 for ambulance service and is charging York annual rent of $12,720 to house an ambulance in the South Berwick Community Center, according to Ellsworth.
Rollinsford has agreed to pay York Ambulance $35,000 a year, which is comparable to what it paid to South Berwick Rescue, but officials there have yet to make more than a one-year commitment, according to Bakke.
Discussions between the two nonprofit ambulance organizations began two years ago, after York Hospital and American Medical Response broached the idea of a regionalized ambulance service.
In August, York Ambulance is expected to add wheelchair van transportation service, with discounted rates given to members, according to Bakke.
Bakke said, “It’s really to make sure we’re in a position financially to be as strong as we can be in the future. Everything is changing with the health care landscape; we felt we needed to do something to be prepared for that.”