BAILEYVILLE, Maine — Downeast EMS is celebrating its 15th anniversary — and the fact that it has overcome a number of financial problems.
At one point over the past several years, the ambulance service owed between $80,000 and $90,000 in unpaid bills, many of which were 120 days overdue.
“If we went to order supplies, they wanted money immediately,” said Eddie Moreside, who has served as director for the past year. “It was cash on delivery.”
The turnaround started about five years ago when the company implemented a system of quicker billing in order to improve cash flow.
Then some restructuring and changes in how the ambulance service does business also helped solve the problem, he said.
“There’s a lot of positives that have happened within the last two years in the company,” Moreside said.
The company closed down the Machiasport base because, he said, it wasn’t paying off with only 12 runs per month.
It’s 45 minutes to an hour from the Machias area to the remaining Downeast EMS stations in Baileyville, Eastport and Lubec. But, Moreside said, Downeast EMS doesn’t do emergency runs in the Machias area because Machias has its own ambulance. Downeast EMS merely does nonemergency transfers in the Machias area.
The ambulance service covers emergencies in about 15 communities including Lubec, Eastport, Baileyville, Princeton, Lambert Lake, Trescott, Whiting, Cooper, Charlotte, Meddybemps, Crawford, Wesley, Alexander, Perry and parts of the Unorganized Territory.
The company did not lay off any of its 13 full-time workers or 28 part-time and per-diem workers when it restructured.
However, some people had to be moved to other stations, and some of them “found moving a little bit difficult,” Moreside said.
“It had to be done,” he said. “You hated to do it, but it had to be done to keep the company going.”
One of the biggest positives was a decision to put 10 percent of its deposits into a separate account for the purpose of replacing ambulances. Over the past year, the company saved enough to pay $115,000 cash for two ambulances — a new van ambulance and a refurbished box ambulance.
“We did it in one year,” Moreside said.
The company has eight ambulances, three of which are vans. The rest are box ambulances.
The van ambulances have been a money saver, Moreside said. They have four tires instead of six and get 18 miles per gallon instead of 10.
Vans, which are smaller and house less medical equipment, are used only for nonemergency transfers, such as when a patient must be taken from one hospital to another, he said.
To celebrate its success, the company is hosting a barbecue Sunday, June 26, at the Lubec station, 40 School St., after the Bay of Fundy International Marathon. The barbecue will start between 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. Crew members and the public are invited.