Ambulance service stretched thin in Hancock County

Published: Nov. 22, 2021 at 5:33 PM EST
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ELLSWORTH, Maine (WABI) - Hancock County Commissioners are discussing forming a regional ambulance service to help provide coverage in the greater Ellsworth area.

In September, first responders at the scene of the accident that took the life of Hancock Deputy Luke Gross were originally told an ambulance could be an hour away. An ambulance was cleared and made it to the scene in less than ten minutes, but it drove home the reality that more availability in the area is needed.

Last week, Hancock County Commissioners addressed the need for a solution to the problem of ambulance services being stretched too thin.

“For the last year or more, we’ve seen an increase in the unavailability of EMS services,” said Hancock County Regional Communications Center Director Rob Conary. We find in the dispatch side of it, they’re shopping around for an ambulance to respond to calls. It gets very frustrating when the nearest ambulance is 30 or 40 minutes away.”

The greater Ellsworth area is currently served by Northern Light Transport, which staffs two ambulances during the day and one at night. But when those ambulances aren’t available, services from outlying areas such as Blue Hill, MDI, and Cherryfield are called, in turn leaving those towns without service. County officials say the biggest issue with ambulance service is staffing.

“There’s not a lot of people out there,” Conary said. “I mean, nobody gets rich doing EMS. The paramedics and the EMTs that are out there, they’re doing a lot of per diem work. They’re bouncing around from service to service, doing a shift here or there.”

Hancock County Commissioners are in the process of forming a working committee to study the feasibility of a regional ambulance service but stress there are no easy answers, or quick fixes.

“I don’t think the intent is to take over for anybody,” said Conary. “I think the intent is, how can we work together to figure out a better way. And I don’t know if anybody really knows what to do yet. We know there’s a hole in the bottom of the boat, and the water’s coming in. We just don’t know how to plug it.”

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