City firefighters to continue responding to EMS calls



ELLSWORTH — With little discussion, councilors on Monday unanimously approved continuing to have Ellsworth firefighters respond to medical calls at the basic, non-transport level.

“Although it does not come without a cost, it’s a public service that I think we should offer,” said Councilor John Phillips. “The ambulance service does a fine job, but there are instances where they aren’t available at times.” Allowing firefighters to respond to medical calls, said Phillips, “gives another alternative for the safety of our citizens.”

Phillips added that there had been some “anecdotal evidence” from both the Ellsworth Police Department and Fire Department chiefs that “there was a time delay for ambulances (from Northern Light Medical Transport) to arrive” in certain instances.

Councilor Robert Miller said that while the cost of having firefighters respond to medical calls could run “up to $19,000 per year,” that is “still less than buying our own ambulance and stocking it and staffing it.”

Having extra staff to respond “will help us,” said Miller, and the ambulance can “waive off the Fire Department,” said Miller, if they aren’t needed.

Phillips said the plan can be re-evaluated in the future if it isn’t working.

Councilors on Monday also approved a contract with Hancock County to provide structure fire and emergency services response to Fletchers Landing Township. The city has previously had an agreement to provide fire protection to the township, but firefighters also have been providing basic, non-transport emergency medical services (EMS) to the area since last October.

The city will be paid an extra $2,500 for emergency medical services on top of the $15,000 it already receives from the county to provide fire protection to the township, for a total of $17,500. The Fire Department responded to 11 calls in the township over the past year, six of which were medical calls, according to a memo sent by Fire Department Chief Richard Tupper.

The city became licensed as an EMS agency so that it would be covered in the event that individual firefighters who held licenses helped out on scene, but Tupper said the department later discovered the type of agency license they hold requires staff to respond to all emergency medical calls. That prompted a series of discussions this spring as to whether the city wanted to take on EMS responsibilities.

“It’s in your capable hands now,” Phillips told Tupper.

Kate Cough

Kate Cough

Kate covers the city of Ellsworth, including the Ellsworth School Department and the city police beat, as well as the towns of Amherst, Aurora, Eastbrook, Great Pond, Mariaville, Osborn, Otis and Waltham. She lives in Bar Harbor and welcomes story tips and ideas. She can be reached at [email protected]

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