Bowdoinham is weighing its options after struggles with its current EMS provider have the town considering how to provide ambulance services in the future.

The town will host an ambulance informational meeting at Town Hall, 13 School St., at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 29.

The town has a $50,000 annual contract with North East Mobile Health Services, which provides ambulance service to communities throughout the Midcoast and Southern Maine. Bowdoinham hit a snag with North East in January when the provider requested a contract addendum asking Bowdoinham to pay $67,000 per month or consider their relationship terminated in 90 days.

The Bowdoinham Select Board pushed back and, after negotiations, the EMS provider agreed to honor the $ 50,000-a-year contract with Bowdoinham until June 30, according to Bowdoinham Town Manager Nicole Briand.

North East has been struggling to keep up with calls in recent years. For the past four years, North East has relied on Topsham EMS as its primary backup for Bowdoinham but, as of March, switched to Lisbon EMS, at Topsham’s request.

The switch came after Topsham Fire Chief Christopher McLaughlin told North East they had become overwhelmed by the volume of calls. McLaughlin said Topsham responded to 83% of the calls from Bowdoinham in 2022 — 208 out of 250 calls. He said this left Topsham feeling like they were the primary provider rather than the backup and ultimately put a strain on Topsham’s own emergency resources.


Bowdoinham Select Board member Allen Acker said he’s concerned about Lisbon replacing Topsham because Lisbon is farther away. Topsham is 9 miles from Bowdoinham, while Lisbon is 12.5 miles away.

Last year, Topsham’s average response time to Bowdoinham was 13 minutes and 11 seconds, according to McLaughlin.

Lisbon, which responded to two out of the 250 calls, said their quickest response time was 16 minutes and longest 21 minutes, without lights or sirens, according to Lisbon Advanced EMT Amy MacDonnell.

Rick Petrie, North East chief operations officer, said the company relied on its mutual aid partners more last year than in previous years due to staffing issues. He said the state of Maine is having a hard time attracting people to work in EMS because the pay and benefits “are not great.”

The average salary for an emergency medical technician in Maine is $34,000 a year, according to

“Bowdoinham sits in a really interesting area where there is nobody really close to them to cover and the services that are stressed,” Petrie said. “That’s every service in the state right now.”

The alternative to outsourced emergency medical services would be to establish Bowdoinham’s own ambulance service, which would be costly, according to Petrie. He said the average cost for an ambulance is $350,000, with an additional $100,000 for equipment and $750,000 to staff the ambulance 24 hours a day. He said a town like Bowdoinham that averages 250 calls a year would only bring in $150,000-$200,000 worth of revenue, 25% of what it costs to staff and maintain the ambulance.

“We can’t afford to house and staff an ambulance on our own for just us, without some sort of state or federal help,” Acker said. “And we would need to be a regional series covering other towns. Personally, I think it should be a county service for towns that can’t sustain their own series much like the sheriffs cover our police needs.”

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