About North Haven's Emergency Medical Services
In an Emergency Dial 911
North Haven Emergency Medical Services provides for the emergency medical needs of the island on a 24/7 basis. The crew currently consists of 7 Emergency Medical Technicians and First Responders licensed by Maine EMS, as well as a driver certified in CPR and Emergency Vehicle Operation. We are an all-volunteer crew, and we typically staff the ambulance with a team of 2 to 4 responders. The service is currently licensed at the EMT-Basic level, and is permitted to the Intermediate level. This means that we are obligated to provide EMT-Basic level care on all calls, but we are allowed to deliver care up to the Intermediate level if and when we are able.
Delivering emergency medical care to patients in a remote setting is often logistically challenging. From North Haven, transports of more than an hour are not unusual, and often entail a series of responses from cooperating agencies. In each case, however, the flow of the call is essentially the same: we assess the patient, treat and stabilize injuries, then transport the patient if necessary.
In cases where the patient is stable, we typically transport via Penobscot Island Air’s fixed wing aircraft to Knox County Regional Airport in Owl’s Head, where we meet a ground ambulance from South Thomaston or Rockland for transport to Pen Bay Medical Center. For critical cases, we call a LifeFlight helicopter from Bangor or Lewiston. LifeFlight crews can deliver advanced care while en route to a regional trauma or burn center (Bangor, Lewiston, Portland, or Boston).
If it is foggy, rainy, or if the visibility ceiling is too low to fly by plane or helicopter, we transport in the ambulance, aboard the ferry, to Pen Bay Medical Center. On those occasions when medical emergencies occur in remote locations, or at times when ferry transport is unfeasible, we call on a private boat or the Coast Guard to provide the most expedient, safe transportation for patient and crew. When a patient is transported to Penobscot Bay Medical Center in Rockland--whether by plane, ferry, or otherwise-- they are accompanied by at least one EMT; in some cases the island Doctor may go. Each of these options has different costs and benefits: the dollar cost of outside resources like Penobscot Island Air or LifeFlight; the medical costs and benefits of basic vs. advanced care; and the consequences of expedient vs. delayed transport. Transport decisions are made by the crew-member-in-charge based on a consideration of all relevant factors.
If the illness or injury is found not to be serious after evaluation by the EMTs (and discussion with our Medical Control), a patient can refuse transportation or treatment by signing a release form. Such patients sometimes then go to the North Haven Clinic, via their own transportation. We cannot transport patients to the North Haven Clinic because the facilities are limited, and Maine EMS does not consider it a "receiving" facility.
Penobscot Island Air, the captains and the crews of the Neal Burgess, as well as LifeFlight's nurses, paramedics, and pilots, are all critical members of the extended North Haven EMS team.
Courtesy of John Dietter