PALERMO — Fire Chief Roger Komandt said he is looking out for his town in trying to find the best ambulance service with the fastest response time to serve his community.

Komandt, along with Select Board members, has spoken with Chief Bill Gillespie of Liberty Ambulance Service to explore the possibility of contracting for its services.

Delta Ambulance, Palermo’s current ambulance provider, operates a free service to communities that do not have a service agency, he said, but Delta has been losing staff over the statewide vaccination mandate for health care workers.

“They have a large plate to fill covering many townships,” Komandt noted. Delta also provides non-emergency transport services, which can tie up the ambulance for long periods.  

Based in Waterville and Augusta, Delta has also reduced its number of vehicles in service. On average, Komandt estimates the response time is somewhere between 20 and 35 minutes, saying the town has experienced longer and shorter times as well.

From the farthest point in Palermo, Komandt performed a test and said the response time from Liberty Ambulance would be roughly 15 minutes. 

Gillespie said if traffic on Route 3 is good, the response time is closer to 7 to 10 minutes. “When doing CPR, it makes a difference.”

Delta, a for-profit agency, is struggling, just as every other service provider is doing, to maintain a workforce, he said.  “It’s a struggle to hire people and to get people into the industry,” he said.

At present, Liberty Ambulance has two staffers working from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays, along with one person from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends. Nights are covered by volunteers. It also provides service to neighboring Montville for emergency calls.

Gillespie said a lot of people in the industry work 60 hours or more a week on a per-diem basis, which contributes to burnout. He recently met with other EMT directors in Waldo County to talk about staffing issues and wages and try to come up with solutions as a group, “so we are not constantly undercutting each other.”

“We are hiring from the same pool of people, and need to work collaboratively so we are not stealing from other service providers,” he said.  “Roger reached out and asked if we’d consider giving Palermo an opportunity to be covered by Liberty Ambulance service along with Montville.”

Komandt said he has only been in Palermo for 2 1/2 years, and has been fire chief for two years. He has heard stories about how the town’s EMT program was “null and void” since 2006 and the only emergency service available in town was the Fire Department.

One story Komandt remembers was of a man in his 80s having to perform CPR on his wife, also 80, after she went into cardiac arrest. “Where I come from in Ohio,” he said, “you don’t have that. They should have called the Fire Department, who could at least provide CPR.”

With help from the Fire Department, Komandt said, the town’s EMT service was able to get its license back. Both he and his wife are paramedics, and along with one other EMT in town, they are able to respond and start treatment in an emergency. 

All three of the town’s service providers also work for Liberty Ambulance. Under the current agreement, Komandt and his wife are allowed to work at the EMT level only until Liberty Ambulance arrives.  With Liberty as the transport agency, the two paramedics could immediately operate at a higher level of care under Liberty’s authority while the ambulance is en route to the scene.

With the added services and better response time, Komandt said, “he (Gillespie) can be a big value to us.”

The chief said he has started to put the idea out to townspeople and hopes to organize an informational community meet-and-greet with all parties involved. Ultimately, the service would be voted on by residents at the March town meeting.

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