Board votes to retain 2 ambulance services

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HARRISON — Two ambulance companies, Pace and United, will now provide service in town following a unanimous decision by selectmen Tuesday night.

The motion to divide the town into two districts and have both companies serve the town was made by Selectman Lisa Villa.

The 90-minute discussion that preceded the vote began with an emotional plea by Villa, whose arm was in a sling following an accident Monday in Massachusetts.

“Someone ran a red light and both of our cars were totaled,” she said. “I thought the car was on fire. I jumped out and someone came to me and laid me down. I waited five minutes for an ambulance to come. It seemed like a long time. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to have to wait 25 minutes for an ambulance.”

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Villa read a letter from Harrison resident Kelly Howard whose mother waited 25 minutes for an ambulance from Pace to arrive last November. Despite efforts of ambulance personnel to revive her mother, she was pronounced dead at Bridgton Hospital. Howard wrote, “I don’t think Pace did anything wrong, I just think United might have gotten there quicker.”

Bill Holmes, Cumberland County’s Emergency Communications Director, offered several suggestions for speeding up response time, including asking that 911 calls go directly to the county instead of through the State Police in Gray.

“Years ago, I recommended one ambulance company because it was easier for us to just deal with one company. But I didn’t factor in response time.” If the town is divided into two districts, some data would have to be changed, but “the cost would be zero, other than a public employee’s time.”

Regardless of which ambulance arrives, patients have their choice of which hospital they want to be taken to, he added.

Asked why the town has had just one ambulance service, Chairman Bill Winslow said, “I think it’s because the town meeting voted in 1993 to go with Pace.”

Bridgton Hospital physician Ron Cilley suggested, “As long as I can go where I want to go, I don’t care who shows up.”

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