SULLIVAN — Thanks to additional training and support from the community, Sullivan Fire Rescue should soon be able to provide a more advanced level of care when responding to emergency calls.
The volunteer department’s public information officer, Jeremy Ogden, explained the department is applying to the Maine Board of Emergency Medical Services (EMS) to upgrade its licensing, which determines what services can be provided when responding and transporting patients during a 911 call.
The upgrade would include permitting that would allow the department’s emergency medical technicians (EMTs) to perform an advanced level of care.
Currently, the department is licensed at the base level.
There are five EMTs on the roster, with a sixth about to join the ranks. Three of those six responders are advanced EMTs.
With the licensure changes, the department will continue to respond to every call it gets — but it will now also be permitted to provide services at the advanced EMT level when its advanced staff is available.
“We’re still going to be responding to every call we are requested to,” Ogden said, which would include providing base-level EMT care.
With the additional permitting, the department will not be required to provide advanced EMT care but can do so if the appropriately trained crew is available.
The advanced EMTs will provide “a higher level of care” and would be permitted to start intravenous therapy, perform cardiac monitoring and administer a larger selection of medications, Ogden explained.
The application process includes a 30-day public comment period.
“Our goal is by the end of April, beginning of May at the latest, we are operating at the new level,” Ogden said.
Ogden expressed his gratitude for “the support we have had from our community” to be able to complete the requirements for the additional permitting.
“This was an expense to do,” he said.
The funding for the advanced training and permitting had been included in the $29,100 in operating expenses approved by voters at last year’s Town Meeting.
Despite voter approval, Ogden explained that municipal departments have had to make budget cuts due to the financial uncertainty brought on by the pandemic, calling into question whether Sullivan Fire Rescue could swing the costs for the necessary training and permitting.
But the community and town administration continued to encourage the project, he said.
“We’ve had an outpouring of support.”
Of the $29,100 budget, the department’s contract with Northern Light Medical Transport (NLMT), which is the town’s primary ambulance service, costs $12,000.
For every medical call that NLMT receives, Sullivan Fire Rescue is dispatched and responds as well.
The remaining $18,100 in EMT funding is the operational budget, divided among expenses for training, licensing and equipment.
Additionally, the department last year started its paid on-call program for EMTs working overnight hours “to help increase our coverage and availability and increase our services for the town,” Ogden said.
The program provides compensation for two people to be on call every night for eight hours each, receiving $32.24 per overnight shift, per person.
“Twenty-four hours a day, we’re providing coverage,” Ogden said.
When emergency calls are dispatched, “We make it our mission to respond.”