October 20, 2019
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Health and safety of our neighbors should be focus in ambulance discussion

Lauren Abbate | BDN
Lauren Abbate | BDN
North East Mobile Health Services provides ambulance coverage for the towns of Camden, Rockport, Lincolnville and Hope.

For more than a decade, North East Mobile Health Services has been a mainstay in the communities of Camden, Rockport, Hope and Lincolnville. Over these years, we have employed dozens of residents in service of their neighbors. We are a business of Mainers helping Mainers, and it is an honor to fulfill the promise we made to these communities to provide responsive, reliable and compassionate care at times of peril and need throughout the continuum of care.

Our ability to maintain a positive business and civic relationship in these towns is a great source of pride. By scaling and combining resources among communities, NEMHS provides reliable, quality and responsive ambulance and transport services at a fraction of the cost of a municipally managed service. Our efficient management approach saves the patient and the taxpayers money.

Since NEMHS was contracted to provide emergency ambulance services to the towns of Camden, Rockport, Hope and Lincolnville, we have never failed to meet performance standards. In fact, we have consistently exceeded them, as evidenced in a report shared with the four towns: NEMHS Performance 2018-2019.

The report shows that NEMHS’ average response times were several minutes faster than contract requirements, and paramedics were on site for more than 98 percent of all calls, exceeding the 95 percent contract mandate.

The other critical component of ambulance service is the establishment of mutual aid, which is standard in every system across the country. Mutual aid is an agreement between two or more services to provide back-up coverage when one of those services is fully occupied. It is not only necessary to ensure public safety, but also provides cost efficiency across neighboring towns.

Last year, NEMHS was dispatched to more than 1,580 calls in Camden, Rockport, Hope and Lincolnville. Of those, only 41 required mutual aid, or 2.6 percent, according to NEMHS data. As a comparison, we reviewed the number of times mutual aid was used in more than 90 communities in York, Cumberland, Knox and Lincoln counties, according to the Maine EMS database. The average rate of mutual aid use in these communities was 6.1 percent.

Despite these indisputable facts demonstrating NEMHS’ exceptional performance, the towns of Camden and Rockport, through their respective fire chiefs, have embarked on a campaign of disparagement and misinformation to advance their desire to establish a more costly municipal ambulance service. Their characterization of our performance and contract fulfillment is without merit and a gross misrepresentation of the truth.

What’s more, the town of Camden designed the contract, a committee made up of all four towns approved the metrics in use, we have provided the referenced data demonstrating our overperformance and we have proposed solutions and improvements only to be rebuffed.

For example, NEMHS proposed dedicating ambulances to emergency services for the four towns to further reduce our response times. However, this offer was declined because the four towns determined that call volume did not warrant the cost.

In addition, NEMHS has repeatedly requested that Knox Regional Communications Center, for which the Camden fire chief is chairman, communicate directly with our dispatch to avoid unnecessary delays in mutual aid requests. These requests have been met with obstinance from KRCC, even after a review uncovered that the root cause of delayed mutual aid is their refusal to communicate with NEMHS dispatch.

We lament the need for this public disagreement and hope that we can return to what unites us — a shared desire to preserve the health and safety of our neighbors. But we also cannot allow our reputation to continually be publicly disparaged by unfounded claims and misrepresentations.

Nonetheless, we will never be deterred from our mission. We are caring and compassionate health care professionals with the training, expertise and resources to serve our patients, customers and community through the continuum of care. Our neighbors can trust that we will continue to strive for excellence in everything that we do, putting the patient first to ensure our delivery of service is second to none.

Robert “Butch” Russell is CEO of Northeast Mobile Health Services.



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