Northern Light A.R. Gould Hospital is ending its ambulance service at the end of the year. The decision comes as more towns in The County switch to operating their own ambulance services or contracting with nearby towns. The city of Presque Isle has operated its own ambulance service since 2017. Credit: Courtesy photo

Northern Light A.R. Gould Hospital in Presque Isle has announced that it will no longer be providing local 911 ambulance services as of Jan. 1, 2020.

Hospital officials said Thursday the decision to end the 911 services Northern Light Medical Transport, formerly known as Crown Emergency Care, was influenced by many central Aroostook towns either forming their own ambulance services or contracting with larger communities.

Since 2017, the city of Presque Isle has utilized its own ambulance service through the fire department and now provides coverage for Fort Fairfield. The town of Fort Fairfield voted not to renew their contract with Northern Light Health as of May 1.

In January 2019, the towns of Wade and Washburn also dropped Northern Light in favor of splitting coverage between the Presque Isle and Caribou fire departments. Town managers in both communities cited lower annual costs and potential quicker response times as factors in their decisions to partner with other municipalities.

Northern Light A.R. Gould Hospital CEO Greg LaFrancois said that the hospital has received an “insufficient volume of 911 calls” to maintain their ambulance service. He said that moving forward they will focus on providing critical care transport service for patients who require treatment at Northern Light Health affiliated hospitals downstate and interfacility transfer services, which is based locally.

“We are continuing to work out the details as to whether this service will operate under Northern Light AR Gould Hospital or under another Northern Light Health entity,” LaFrancois said. “More details will be released as soon as they are available, but residents should rest assured that this service is not ending.”

Northern Light Medical Transport will still offer 911 ambulance services for their coverage areas in Penobscot, Piscataquis and Somerset Counties. Hospital officials stated the changes in 911 services only apply to Presque Isle and surrounding communities.

LaFrancois also said that he hopes the Presque Isle Fire Department will expand their ambulance services to cover surrounding communities that currently rely on Northern Light A.R. Gould Hospital.

“We were clear with the city of Presque Isle and the other communities in our service area a year ago that our service would not be sustainable unless we were able to keep contracts with all of the communities outside of Presque Isle,” LaFrancois said.

Presque Isle Fire Chief Darrell White was not immediately available for comment Thursday.

This story was originally published in The County.