Ellsworth Fire engines sit in garage bays in the basement of City Hall on June 9, 2022. Credit: Bill Trotter / BDN

After years of deliberating whether to provide direct ambulance service locally, the city of Ellsworth has decided to purchase an ambulance.

But the purchase isn’t intended to create a full-fledged ambulance service, according to Ellsworth Fire Chief Scott Guillerault. The city has an existing ambulance contract with Northern Light Medical Transport that extends through June 2024.

The number of emergency medical calls in Ellsworth has been on the rise, and, at times when Northern Light has been busy, city emergency responders have had to wait for an ambulance to arrive from a nearby community to transport patients to nearby Northern Light Maine Coast Hospital in Ellsworth, Guillerault said.

“My crew has been on scene for 45 minutes waiting for an ambulance,” Guillerault said Tuesday, which can hamper his department’s response time if there’s another pressing emergency call.

Having its own ambulance will help people receive treatment faster, if Northern Light is tied up on other calls.

staggering increase in medical calls

The city will also need to obtain a secondary ambulance license from Maine Emergency Medical Services to be allowed to transport patients, Guillerault said. Although they are licensed to treat patients, the transportation requires additional permission. But first, the ambulance needs to be purchased.

Last week, the Ellsworth City Council approved purchasing an ambulance for $220,000 and spending an additional $70,000 on needed equipment to outfit the ambulance.

Getting the license will require some additional measures. The city then has to issue to public notice of the request for the secondary ambulance license,Guillerault said. For 30 days after that, the public can provide comments to Maine EMS on the request. The city also has to have the ambulance inspected and has to designate a medical control director — most likely a medical doctor affiliated with Northern Light — to oversee the service provided by the city.

Guillerault said no additional staffing will be needed if the city is approved.

The fire chief said he hopes to have the ambulance licensed and operable by the time the summer tourist season gets into full swing around the end of June.

“It could take us a couple of months,” Guillerault said.

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Bill Trotter

A news reporter in coastal Maine for more than 20 years, Bill Trotter writes about how the Atlantic Ocean and the state's iconic coastline help to shape the lives of coastal Maine residents and visitors....