CALAIS -- The city kicked off its ambulance service two weeks ahead of schedule and, according to city officials, it has been a huge success. Calais Fire-EMS had its first run on June 14.
On Thursday, Calais City Manager Diane Barnes credited her staff for getting the service up and running before its July 1 start date. She praised Calais Fire-EMS Chief Danny Carlow, Assistant Fire Chief Kenny Clark and EMS business manager Janet Purton "It has been a smooth transition so far. We are really, really excited. Everybody here that is working for the fire department and the EMS personnel are excited about this new venture and we've been busy," she said.
The change in ambulance service began after the Calais City Council voted in February to leave Downeast EMS, the regional ambulance authority, and start its own city-owned ambulance service. Washington County Emergency Medical Services Authority, a quasi-municipal entity, oversees Downeast EMS ambulance. It is made up of 15 member towns from Danforth to Lubec and Eastport to Crawford.
At one time, Calais was its largest member town. Downeast EMS was based in the city's fire station, but recently moved out of Calais to set up operations in Baileyville. Carlow said that with the startup of the city-owned ambulance service, officials hired six full-time employees. "They will be cross-trained for fire and EMS, but their primary job is to work on the ambulance service," he said. That brings the city's crew to 12 full-time members, he added.
The city's top emergency officer said the ambulance service has three levels of trained personnel, including basic and intermediate emergency medical technicians, along with paramedics. The city has three ambulances. "We are doing a total service," Carlow said. "Our focus is on providing 24-hour emergency coverage for all of our citizens, but we also are trying to address fully the transfer business providing service for both Down East Community Hospital [in Machias] and Calais Regional Hospital." It has been a busy two weeks. "We have had some days when it has been right out straight," Carlow said. "And we actually had all ambulances tied right up there one day. Two out on transfers [of patients] and several emergencies around town." The city does have backup agreements with Downeast EMS and the Baileyville Ambulance Service.
They also are in the process of formalizing a verbal agreement with Pleasant Point Ambulance Service for further backup service. Carlow said that in addition to providing emergency coverage, the department plans to do some community outreach programs. "One of the things that we hope to offer is to go out to any elderly complex, if they request it, to run blood pressure clinics, educational-type things, as well as the fire prevention programs," he said. Carlow said any town that might like to join the Calais Fire-EMS Ambulance Service could do so. The city soon will be offering ambulance service to neighboring Vanceboro.