DEXTER - The Town Council must decide in the next few months whether to ante up extra funds to offer full ambulance coverage or to contract a portion of the services.A local Public Safety Advisory Committee recommended that the town either contract with a local hospital to staff and train the ambulance service while retaining ownership and maintenance responsibilities of the facility and equipment, or continue to operate the ambulance service as a municipal department. If the ambulance service remains a department, the town would change the part-time positions to full-time, add at least two paramedic-qualified emergency medical technicians to the staff, and increase compensation for all employees.
In the five years he has served as town manager, the issue of the ambulance service has frequently "bubbled to the surface," Robert Simpson told the council recently, because the cost of the operation typically exceeds the department's budget.
Another issue has been the availability of personnel and their retention, he explained. In addition, the town has no personnel trained in advanced life support services, or ALS, so it relies on regional ambulance providers to fill the need.
Those regional providers, Mayo Regional Hospital, Sebasticook Valley Hospital and Capitol Ambulance Service, were asked in recent months for proposals to staff the Dexter ambulance service. Of the three, only Mayo responded.
The options offered by Mayo ranged from providing an ambulance out of Dover-Foxcroft to having an ambulance and paramedic based in Dexter. The options would address coverage and would shift the financial risk and billing over to Mayo, according to Mayo CEO Ralph Gabarro.
Town officials were advised that under a new Medicare ruling only one bill must be submitted for reimbursement if two ambulance services respond to the same call. Because of this ruling, Gabarro told the council that Mayo would bill the town for its ALS services. Historically, the hospital charges an average fee of about $197 for ALS calls, he noted.
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