Rockland raises EMS fees for mutual aid responses

Posted:  Friday, January 12, 2018 - 3:00pm

ROCKLAND – Neighboring towns whose sick and injured call for an ambulance and find Rockland medical responders at their door will soon see a significant increase in the fees.

On Monday, January 8, members of Rockland City Council voted to raise the personnel and resource charges sent to towns and patients in the event of mutual aid medical responses by Rockland employees. Some of those fee increases would jump by $300, bringing overall compensation closer to what City taxpayers already pay for the same service. The patients themselves receive a different bill from their insurance based on the procedures applied.

It’s a way of recouping finances incurred when Rockland EMS responds to calls in neighboring towns, according to Fire/EMS Chief Chris Whytock during the Jan. 3 agenda-setting meeting. It’s also a way of urging some of those towns to provide, on their own, the services their residents need.

For decades in Maine, neighboring communities have called upon each other to act as backup and to increase resources and personnel when needed. This applies to all first response agencies, including law enforcement, fire, and emergency medical organizations. 

Each mutual aid department that is requested not only responds, but usually uses its own equipment and staff. In return, the requesting town may reimburse some of the incurred finances.

Rockland EMS contracts directly with the town of Owls Head, and also serves some of the Camden nursing facilities. Yet when other towns either request a Rockland EMS team, or a paramedic, or another town doesn’t answer a 911 request at all, Rockland cannot easily refuse the dispatch.

In 2017, Rockland provided EMS mutual aid to nine neighboring agencies. Those agencies include Thomaston, North East Mobile Health, South Thomaston, Cushing, Vinalhaven, North Haven, St. George, Crie Haven, and Warren.

“There is a town in particular that we seem to go to more often than not, and they are just fine with us covering them without having any responsibility after the fact,” Whytock said. “I think this may fix that a little bit.”

The overall number of calls fluctuates per year, according to Whytock, and ambulance billing fees fluctuate yearly with what Medicare/Medicaid will pay.

“It fluctuates,” Whytock said. “The fewer the calls, the higher the rate.”

One year Rockland EMS responded to almost 2,500 calls. In 2017, they had 2,000. Of those calls in 2017, Whytock estimated being sent out of town 170 times, and only on a handful of occasions did North East Mobile Health or Thomaston come to Rockland when a fourth ambulance in the city was needed.

Whytock said that each previous time Rockland raised its EMS mutual aid fees, the other towns raised theirs to match Rockland.

‘It’s not apples to apples,” he said. “The other towns know that when we respond to them, they’re getting top-of-the-line paramedics and intermediates. If we have an ambulance come in to the city to cover us, we have no idea what’s coming for staffing.

“My goal is to not give away the service to another town.”


          Rockland Fire & EMS Mutual Aid Runs in 2017
AGENCY       Mutual Aid from Rockland Fire & EMS
Thomaston     118  
North East Mobile Health    26  
South Thomaston     26  
Cushing       24  
VinalHaven     3  
North Haven     3  
St. George     2  
CrieHaven     1  
Warren       1  


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