MEXICO – Less than 38 days from Monday, the fate of Med-Care Ambulance Service should be decided. But whether or not its 11 member towns continue to keep the 20-year-old company as their emergency medical services provider by approving another decade-long contract is anyone’s guess.

To continue operations, 80 percent of the total population for all the towns must vote to approve the contract, according to Med-Care Board of Directors President Steve Brown of Carthage.

At town meetings last month, Canton, Carthage, Newry, Peru and Roxbury residents overwhelmingly voted to keep Med-Care operating.

But those five towns only total 23 percent of the population served by Med-Care. Andover rejected the contract last month at town meeting reserving the right to revote the issue pending new information gathered by a committee tasked with researching the town’s options.

At a committee meeting last week, committee members fine-tuned a request for proposals for coverage to be sent – when finalized – to Med-Care; Paramedic Alliance for Community Emergencies, or PACE Paramedic Service, a division of Stephens Memorial Hospital in Norway; Bethel Rescue; Tri-Town Ambulance Service of West Paris; and NorthStar Emergency Medical Services, a division of Franklin Memorial Hospital in Farmington.

Once that information is gathered and given to town officials, Andover selectmen intend to hold a special town meeting to decide whether to stay with Med-Care or try someone else.

The committee has also asked selectmen from any of the other 10 towns to meet with them at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, May 8, in the Andover town hall to discuss potential updates for the interlocal agreement, Andover Selectman Susan Merrow, also a committee member, said.

Byron, Dixfield, Hanover, Mexico and Rumford have yet to vote on the issue.

“If we don’t get 80 percent, then the interlocal expires,” Brown said Friday at the station.

“I don’t know what happens then. We’ve had our attorneys look at it, but we’ve never been faced with that. There is no language in the interlocal that says we can still operate after June 7. So, that’s a serious concern about whether or not we can legally continue after midnight on June 7 even if we need to.”

That’s why Brown, Med-Care’s board and Med-Care Director of Operations/Chief of Services Dean Milligan have turned their efforts toward getting the agreement signed rather than lobbying for a planned $2 million station expansion.

They’ve also just set up a Web site that’s packed with information: www.med-careambulance.com/facility/.

Med-Care’s Board of Directors OK’d the building project in September, but a funding mechanism has yet to be decided. One option is to take out a 30- to 40-year federal loan.

Failure to get the needed 80 percent would dissolve Med-Care. Its $900,000 in assets would then be liquidated, Brown said.

If the service dissolves, so, too, do jobs of its 60 employees, 15 of which are full time, Milligan said.

Other losses would include 24/7 paramedic or advance life-support care, community outreach work, education programs in schools, CPR and first-aid classes in communities, and ambulance coverage at all sporting events, fires and accidents.

Additionally, New Page Inc.’s regional response team would lose its medical component, and Rumford Hospital would lose its critical-access hospital accreditation.

“That’s why it’s not just about an ambulance service,” Milligan said.

And then, there would be trickle-down effects since many Med-Care employees live and shop in the area.

“Med-Care has a payroll of just under $1 million, and I imagine a large percentage of that gets turned back into these communities. So, to me, to lose Med-Care, it would be devastating and it would be for what? Trading it for what? There’s no other ambulance service that can come in here and do it for free.

“These towns have an ambulance service now that provides the highest level of service in the state, and they’re only paying 17 percent of its overall cost, including the facility, and that cost is divided among 11 communities. My question back to the citizens is, ‘What do you think’s going to replace Med-Care that’s more efficient and effective?'” Milligan asked.


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