Wiscasset Emergency Medical Services (EMS) has three fewer workers due to Maine’s mandate that health care workers get vaccinated for COVID-19, Town Manager Dennis Simmons told selectmen Sept. 21.
The service was already short-staffed; it has been for a long time, he said in the Zoom meeting. “Of course, this (requirement) is just not helping our situation, at all. But we’re working with area services (and) just trying to come up with ideas to do the best we can to make sure that an ambulance arrives in a timely manner.”
According to EMS Director Erin Bean’s Sept. 15, monthly report to Simmons, she learned at a meeting with other Lincoln County service chiefs and MaineHealth, “several critical patients were not able to be moved in a timely fashion and (this) is an issue none of us know how to fix,” due to staffing issues around the county keeping services at “bare bones.”
Simmons was responding to a question from Selectman Kim Andersson. She said, based on Bean’s report, it sounded like the pandemic and the mandate were stressing the department.
Bean wrote, “COVID burnout is starting to show on every individual ... working at this service. Unfortunately this led to several open shifts that had to be filled last moment, incurring overtime to cover.” Part of the problem is workers’ other, full-time employers are “ordering them in to cover their ranks that are also dwindling.”
In announcing an Oct. 1 deadline for health care workers to be fully vaccinated, with enforcement to start Oct. 29, Gov. Janet Mills’ administration has said at maine.gov/governor/mills/news, the move is to limit COVID-19’s spread, protect Mainers’ health and lives and “safeguard Maine’s health care capacity.”
On another front, Bean reported she hopes the new ambulance will pull into the station later this fall. And selectmen’s lump passing of departments’ leftover 2020-21 funds Sept. 21 gives EMS $22,122 to replace a stretcher bought used about 15 years ago and that Bean said now has a bad lift motor that cannot be replaced; $26,675 to get the new ambulance a stretcher auto load system Bean said could help cut workers’ risk of back injuries; and $6,211 for pandemic-driven labor and supply costs.
‘Go get the truck’
The board OK’d Public Works Director Ted Snowdon to skip the town’s usual bidding process and buy a one-ton plow truck. Simmons explained in his manager’s report, the department has been down a commercially licensed driver, despite hiring attempts. A one-ton doesn’t require a commercial driver’s license, so other department and town staff could drive it, helping the town have enough people out plowing, Simmons said.
“Certainly a larger truck with a wing is more efficient but only if we have someone to steer it,” Simmons wrote. “At least this way we can keep the roads open and passable.”
To get and equip the truck, Snowdon will tap most of the $75,000 selectmen carried over from public works’ 2020-21 budget. He was eying a truck at Rowe Ford in Westbrook for $58,253, plus $13,000 for the blade and sander.
“Go get the truck,” Chair Sarah Whitfield said.
Selectmen accepted, with deep regret and with appreciation for all her service to the town, former selectman Judy Colby’s resignation from the budget and schools study committees. And the board approved Desiree Bailey’s request for a business license for Possibilities Nutrition, 147 Gardiner Road, when $1,600 in sewer bills are paid. The license request describes the business as “nutrition shakes and teas.”
The board made Selectman Dusty Jones its liaison to the broadband committee and Chewonki Foundation President Willard Morgan of Alna an at large member of the schools study committee. Selectmen cited Morgan’s experience in education options. No town rules bar non-Wiscasset residents from the ad hoc committee, Simmons told the board.