After learning it would cost more than $1 million to fund its own ambulance service, the Bowdoinham Select Board decided to renew their EMS operations with North East Mobile Health at a 400% annual rate increase, with the possibility of community paramedicine in the future.

At a Monday workshop, North East presented the Select Board with four EMS packages to choose from, and the select board favored the cheapest option — $250,000, beginning July 1. That’s a drastic jump from the current $50,000 annual rate.

The board’s decision followed an informational meeting on March 29 that highlighted rising costs of EMS in Maine due to staffing issues and low reimbursement rates from insurance companies.

EMS options for Bowdoinham

• Option 1: Maintain current operations with North East and Lisbon EMS as a backup for $250,000 a year.
• Option 2: Modify the current operation by scheduling a paramedicine provider stationed in Bowdoinham with an ambulance 10 hours a day, six days a week, operating as a first responder. The other 14 hours would be covered by ambulances responding out of Lisbon and Brunswick for $465,865 a year.
• Option 3: Stage an ambulance in Bowdoinham with one EMS North East provider assigned 24 hours a day that is dedicated to Bowdoinham, with Bowdoinham Fire & Rescue providing the EMT driver. This would cost $559,000 a year.
• Option 4: Stage a fully staffed ambulance in Bowdoinham 24 hours a day, dedicated to Bowdoinham for $849,000 a year.

Bowdoinham Town Manager Nicole Briand said Wednesday the board decided to go with option one, which could raise property taxes by 4% next year. She said the board has “left the door open to consider moving towards a paramedicine option in the future.”

“We will be working to finalize a contract with North East for ambulance service in the next month and are in the process of finalizing the budget,” she said.


The Select Board liked the idea of a community paramedic but, with just 250 calls a year, wasn’t sure if it was worth the cost. North East Chief Operating Officer Rick Petrie saw the board’s hesitation and offered a fifth hybrid option. For the first six months from July through January, the town could go with option one and maintain the current EMS services with North East for $125,000, then from January through June, the town could adopt option two and hire a community paramedic stationed in Bowdoinham for $232,932, bringing the total to $357,932 for the year.

Bowdoinham currently has a $50,000 annual contract with North East, which enlisted the help of Topsham over the past year to help respond to calls as their backup provider. Topsham became overwhelmed after responding to 83% of the calls in 2022 due to staffing issues at North East. Putting a strain on their resources, Topsham charged North East $500 for each call they responded to in Bowdoinham.

In an attempt to make up for financial losses, North East requested an addendum to its contract in January asking Bowdoinham to pay $67,000 a month. After pushback from the Bowdoinham Select Board, North East agreed to honor their original agreement until June 30.

Going forward, North East will enlist the help of Lisbon EMS, at Topsham’s request. Lisbon is 12.5 miles away from Bowdoinham, 3.5 miles farther than Topsham. Lisbon EMS workers reported their fastest response time to Bowdoinham this year, without sirens, was 16 minutes. Topsham’s average response time was 13 minutes and 11 seconds, according to Topsham Fire Chief Christopher McLaughlin.

Select Board member Allen Acker said choosing the cheapest option now gives Bowdoinham officials another year to confer with citizens about what they want for services and what cost they find acceptable.

The Select Board will continue EMS discussions at a budget workshop Monday, April 10, and hold a public hearing for the proposed budget on April 25. Bowdoinham residents will vote on the budget at a town meeting on June 14.

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