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Commission releases final report for improving emergency medical services in Maine

Ebola Nurse Quarantine
Mel Evans
/
AP
An ambulance drives near University Hospital of Newark Monday, Oct. 27, 2014, in Newark, N.J.

The Blue Ribbon Commission to Study Emergency Medical Services in Maine released its final report to the Legislature on Friday. It includes recommendations for improving emergency medical services in the state, which the commission describes as being in crisis.

The commission looked at the structure, support and delivery of emergency medical services, including compensation, reimbursement rates and retention of EMS workers. What it learned was that ambulance services cannot break even, due to discrepancies between the cost per call and the reimbursement per call.

The Maine Ambulance Association proposed a subsidy of $322 per transport for EMS providers handling up to 1,800 calls a year, and a subsidy of more than $2,000 per transport for rural providers handling up to 300 calls a year.

The commission has recommended allocating $70 million a year for five years to support existing transporting EMS services. Nearly a third of that would be allocated for ambulance services at risk of failing and leaving their communities without access to emergency care.

The Commission also recommends that nonmunicipal, nonprofit EMS employees receive better compensation and benefits, and that longtime volunteers receive a retirement benefit. And it suggests creation of a stakeholder workgroup to explore ways to boost EMS ranks in the state.

Commission Co-chair Sen. Chip Curry has submitted legislation to fully fund the Length of Service Award Program for volunteers and to create a stakeholder workgroup to explore EMS career pathways. His Co-chair, House Speaker Rachel Talbot Ross, has introduced a bill that will reestablish the Blue Ribbon Commission to build upon the work of the first commission.