Joe Moore: Do your homework
I am writing this letter in response to the media blitz that I and many of your other readers have experienced over the last week in regard to Emergency Medical Services coverage in Camden, Rockport, Hope and Lincolnville.
For the matter of full disclosure, I am "Localguy123." I am also a career emergency services provider here in Maine, with 17 years of experience. I was also an employee of Camden First Aid from 1996 to 2007 as both a volunteer and full-time employee. First and foremost I am a husband, father and taxpayer in one of the communities affected by this issue.
It is no secret that I have some serious concerns with CFAA's operational and financial condition. Anyone in my position should be, but the recent opinion piece by Mr. McGinnis has certainly put an entirely different tone on the situation.
Mr. McGinnis states that as the largest paramedic service in Maine, he could easily "place many ambulances in Rockport virtually overnight if the cause dictated." As a taxpayer and professional familiar with EMS, this sounds very appealing.
However, his next paragraph left me extremely uneasy. Mr. McGinnis stated "In fact, North East would have the ability to serve the four towns' 911 needs at or above the level and quality of CFAA's service, with trained and exceptionally qualified staff and management, for no more than the current subsidies the towns are paying. The $351,000 increase being requested by CFAA is an unnecessary expense for the towns." This came across more like a jilted competitor using the press to make a free sales pitch compared to a concerned local service chief looking to help out. He goes on to imply that it would be imprudent for the towns to consider taking over management of the service as the issues should be "the service's issue, not the towns'." It's already a town issue as they provide our EMS coverage and we pay them for it. We are foolish not to make it our issue.
The offer of ambulances aplenty and better coverage at no increased cost is tempting. It also smacks of the 1990s when private, for-profit ambulances with large bank accounts sold communities on the same ideas, then hit them for huge fees once they had dissolved their own community service and were at their mercy. I am not implying that is his plan, but you know what they say about those who fail to learn from history. And despite his aversion to the word, they are in fact competitors. He should not be offended by the classification as such.
So what is the right answer? I'll be the first to admit I don't know. What the CFAA has asked for is steep. And no, they didn't offer us a "Plan B." But is the best option for us as a community the cheapest? Not always. Is ridding our town's budget of the headache of joining with the CFAA and helping them regain traction worth turning over control regarding our community EMS service? Remember that they are a private corporation with allegiance to no one town, and they provide services to many communities. Even in large emergency services, resources are finite and Maine is a rural state. When resources are tight, who will decide whether Rockport or Topsham gets the last full-staffed ambulance? It won't be the town of Rockport; that's for sure.
The best answer comes from doing our homework. Talk to your town's administrators. Reach out to people in the towns that both services' cover. Consider how much input you want in what you get for EMS coverage. Remember that costs are ALWAYS negotiable. Just don't make this decision based purely on the checkbook. That will only buy us disaster in the long run.