September 18, 2019
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Hancock County to lose its ambulance service as Bangor service takes over

BDN file photo | BDN
BDN file photo | BDN
A County Ambulance medical response vehicle in Ellsworth.

A Bangor-based ambulance company will replace County Ambulance of Ellsworth and become the Ellsworth area’s interim emergency service provider next week.

Capital Ambulance of Bangor will start handling calls in Ellsworth and 16 nearby towns at 5 p.m. Aug. 31. County will go out of business after serving the area for 40 years, said Joe Kellner, vice president of emergency services at Capital.

Capital plans to base two ambulances in the Ellsworth area and already serves Maine Coast Memorial Hospital of Ellsworth. No service interruptions are expected, Kellner said.

[Ellsworth mulls ambulance service options after spike in medical calls]

“We are familiar with the area. We are a logical neighbor to provide EMS services, and we are offering to step in,” Kellner said Thursday. “Citizens do not have to be afraid that they will have a gap in coverage or will have to change the way they access 911 services.”

Thursday’s announcement comes less than a month after Ellsworth firefighters said they were studying whether to partner with a private ambulance company or start their own service after noticing a spike in ambulance assistance calls that firefighters handle.

As of July 30, Ellsworth had handled 26 medical assists — which is when firefighters help ambulance crews — so far this year. That left them on track to finish the year with about the same number of assists as they had in 2017 — 44, according to statistics provided by the fire department. That compares to 16 in 2016.

In July, County resolved allegations that it submitted false claims to Medicare and MaineCare by agreeing to pay $16,776.74, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Federal officials said that County had used reimbursement funds paid through the two programs to pay the salary and benefits of an employee who had been excluded from the programs.

[Ellsworth ambulance service agrees to pay feds $17K to settle false reimbursement case]

“County Ambulance acted with deliberate ignorance and/or reckless disregard of these material facts by neglecting to perform any search of the individual across these exclusion databases and publicly available resources,” prosecutors wrote in the civil complaint.

Longtime County President John Partridge said at the time that he didn’t dispute the prosecutors’ description of the basic facts of the case, calling the matter “an oversight.”

A message left Thursday morning at County Ambulance, which is headquartered in Ellsworth, was not immediately returned.

County serves Eastbrook, Ellsworth, Fletcher’s Landing, Franklin, Gouldsboro, Hancock, Lamoine, Otis, Sorrento, Sullivan, Surry, Trenton, Waltham, Winter Harbor and Townships 7 through 10, Kellner said.

Capital was already serving Mariaville and other northern Hancock County towns along Route 9. The interim service will continue until the individual towns contract with Capital or another firm. It covers 22 towns altogether, primarily in southern Penobscot County, Kellner said.

It will hire at least six paramedics or EMTs to handle the increased workload. County workers are welcome to apply, Kellner said.

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