Milford is on its way to having its own ambulance after residents approved the change at a special town meeting.
An increase in emergency calls has left Old Town’s ambulance crews stretched thin, prompting Milford to acquire and staff an ambulance of its own so it can provide faster service on its side of the Penobscot River.
The creation of the ambulance service in the town of about 3,000 comes at a time when fire departments have been struggling to fill firefighter and paramedic slots on their rosters.
Old Town has two ambulances that serve an area with a total population of almost 16,000, including the town of Milford, according to a Milford Fire Department proposal.
Currently, the Milford Fire Department has emergency medical technicians on staff who can stabilize someone in a medical emergency, but has to rely on ambulances from Old Town to take patients to the hospital, Milford Fire Chief Josh Mailman said.
Recently, however, an increase in calls in the area has often meant that Old Town ambulances aren’t available to take Milford patients to the hospital. As a result, those patients have to wait for ambulances to arrive from farther-away fire departments, Mailman said.
“We’re seeing an average of, once every three weeks, an ambulance coming from Orono, Bangor and, in a couple of cases, Brewer,” he said in September. “So we’re having long delays in some instances.”
In September, Milford and Old Town had a tentative deal that would have had the two departments closely collaborating and Milford purchasing a used ambulance from Old Town.
That deal appears to be on hold at the moment, however.
“After conversations with the administration at the City of Old Town, the deal apparently fell through,” Mailman said this week. “Milford is moving forward with the purchase of an ambulance and will be in service on Jan.1, 2022.”
Old Town City Manager Bill Mayo said there wasn’t a fully formed deal on the table and that Old Town would continue to work with Milford to chart a path forward.
In October, Milford held a special town meeting where voters approved changing their fire department’s license to allow it to transport patients and respond to a higher level of emergency.
Voters also allowed Milford’s select board to use $81,000 to buy an ambulance. That money is currently budgeted to pay Old Town for its ambulance services, an amount that has risen in recent years, according to the Milford Fire Department.
Mailman has estimated that Milford can save $40,000 to $50,000 a year under the new arrangement.
“We’re not trying to get rich. We know you don’t make money with an ambulance service,” he said in September. But, “if we can alleviate this problem that’s been there for a little while, we’re happy to help.”
At first, Milford was looking to purchase a brand new ambulance, but a new ambulance can cost anywhere between $200,000 to $300,000, Mailman has said.