CAMDEN — Town leaders in Camden spent approximately 20 minutes Tuesday evening talking about a two-year draft contract that is to be signed with emergency medical service provider North East Mobile Health Services. And, North East said this week that it has hired 11 current Camden First Aid Association employees, four of them paramedics, ensuring that while the organizations providing EMS service have changed, the faces on duty will remain familiar.
Kevin McGinnis, chief executive officer of North East, said Thursday, June 20, that the staff will be training in Camden. While the Scarborough-based North East has personnel at its Rockport base on Route 1 behind the State of Maine Cheese, the roster of staff there will be greatly expanded with the addition of the 11. The newly hired includes Justin Hills, of Lincolnville.
Dennis Simmons, of Cushing, will continue to be division commander of that station, with Larry Arbour, of Thomaston, as supervisor and Debbie Tooley as assistant supervisor.
"Warmly welcomed aboard North East from Camden First Aid are Paramedics William Bentley and Samantha Clark, both from Hope; and Kevin Montoya, who resides in Thomaston; as well as Advanced EMTs Devan Rittall of Augusta, Ellie Adams of Rockland, Paul Lawrence of Brooks, and Brian Wright, of Hope," said McGinnis in a news release issued June 21. "Rounding out the crew will be former Camden First Aid EMTs Steve Barley of Appleton, Deanna Widdecomb of Rockport, and Caroline Frontin, who will be returning to Maine from Martinsville, Indiana to join the crew at North East."
Other NEMHS personnel who will continue to serve in this division are William Adams (EMT), of Thomaston; Clarence Spady (Advanced EMT), of Washington; Heidi Drinkwater (EMT), of Belfast; and Craig Fuller (Paramedic), of Union.
"There could be nothing better than well trained, skilled personnel who are also local folks who know the community and its residents," said McGinnis. "The spirit of cooperation between Camden First Aid leaders and our team has been wonderful. We will be holding our employee orientation at the Camden First Aid base next week."
With the four towns of Camden, Hope, Lincolnville and Rockport agreeing at their respective town meetings to pursue a contract with North East, it is now up to the individual Select Boards to finalize the town's own contracts. Camden is to pay North East $10,000 per year, with with quarterly payments. The two-year contracts are due to be finalized by July 1, and carry a three-year renewal proposal.
The draft contract is attached above as a PDF.
At Tuesday's board meeting, Camden selectmen asked how North East would be held accountable.
Town Manager Patricia Finnigan said an oversight team would be created with representatives from each town. Periodic and consistent assessments will be made, she said.
“If you're not happy, come September we've got a track record,” she said. “We can talk to North East right away.”
She said the towns want North East to do well in providing EMS service to citizens, and North East wants to do well in order to succeed.
“We both have the same interests,” she said. "This is a contract that has conditions in place and expectations. What kind of things do you want to have in the contract to hold North East accountable for,” she asked the selectmen.
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Select Board member Don White said he was satisfied with her outline, and said: "The fact we will have a review sets the bar pretty high. Thank you for the explanation. If you are going to have an ongoing review committee no one is going to let water slip under the rug. It looks like we've learned our lesson."
Select Board member John French took umbrage with White's criticism of Camden First Aid and said: "I don't like the tone. Circumstances happen. They gave up many years of good service at minimal charge. To say they were incompetent company is wrong."
White countered and said he was not criticizing the work of Camden First Aid.
"I said we learned our lesson,” said White. "We've learned we have to pay attention to those details. Maybe we could have helped them so they didn't get into the situation they did. Anybody in public safety I'm very appreciative of. The business model wasn't exactly what I liked."
French said: "North East is for-profit. As long as they perform service, we have no oversight over their business."
White asked what the fees might be instituted for community events, and after some discussion the selectmen agreed to request from North East specifically what the company would not cover for free, and what the cost would be.
It was pointed out that the towns' request for proposals from EMS companies asked for basic service. Community service, such as stationing a truck at school events or outdoor festivals, etc., was not factored in.
Select Board member Leonard Lookner pointed out that in such events, Camden was not beholden to ask North East to be on site.
"The community could call Sterling," he said. "There is nothing holding Camden to only North East."
French added that event organizers may very well be paying for those services.
The draft contract is five pages, and there will be another workshop on June 26 to continue scrutinizing it.
The board agreed the draft contract is a clear, concise document.
"North East Mobile Health wrote it," said board member Jim Heard. "We just marked it up.”
Penobscot Bay Pilot Editorial Director Lynda Clancy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; 706-6657.