MEXICO — Med-Care Ambulance is raising money to buy devices for three frontline ambulances to assist personnel in resuscitating patients in cardiac and/or respiratory arrest.

Chief Dean R. Milligan said the effort is part of a plan developed to address the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“The biggest thing that was identified was the geography that we cover and our turnaround time per call,” he said.

The service provides medical help to 16,000 people, mostly in Oxford County, over an area of 550 square miles. It averages 4,000 calls per year that average 67 minutes per call, including transfers to hospitals in Lewiston and Portland.

“For our ability to address the projected increased demand for ambulances and medical care, we are prepared to split our medically licensed crews, allowing us to double the number of staffed ambulances,”  Milligan said.

“We will augment our crews with our in-house drivers, as well as predesignated members of many of the local fire departments to drive the ambulances,” he said. “This will allow us to provide the best level of care to the greatest number residents simultaneously. Several concerns have been identified should this virus cause us to reach that response level.”

Milligan said cardiac arrest and respiratory arrest are the first two concerns that arise. Both usually require more than one provider to manage all the tasks associated with resuscitation.

Maine EMS authorizes automatic ventilators and has recently approved mechanical CPR devices that provide compressions mechanically, which normally takes two licensed providers alternating over 20-plus minutes. The devices would be like adding up to three crew members to the resuscitation team.

Milligan said Med-Care is looking to purchase a combination of these devices to equip its three frontline ambulances that are staffed daily.

“These are devices we wanted to purchase even before COVID-19 came around because of our type of application, long transport times, lots of geography. But our financial situation did not put us into a position to do so,” Milligan said.

“It is certainly a hefty goal, but a goal that we are committed to achieving, recognizing that the cost for these devices are nearly $16,000 per CPR unit and $3,000 per airway unit,” he said.

He said the service is looking into grants and reimbursements from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and has applied for a grant from the Stephen and Tabitha King Foundation for two units.

The service has received a $2,500 grant from Walmart in Mexico, $500 from Irving Forest Products in Dixfield, 250 N95 masks and other personal protective equipment from Nine Dragons Paper mill in Rumford, emergency lighting from Professional Vehicle Corp. in Rumford, and two SUVs from Home Auto Group/Farmington Ford in Farmington.

Donors can give through Med-Care Ambulance’s Facebook page, its GoFundMe Account, postal mail or at the ambulance garage at 290 Highland Terrace in Mexico.

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