(Source: Lincoln News)
HOWLAND – Fire Chief Josh McNally sits in his office overlooking the station, the bays filled bumper-to-bumper with not only firefighting engines but two of the three ambulances housed there. The third has just pulled away to do a transfer between local medical facilities, possibly carrying an elderly patient from Cummings Health Care to a weekly appointment, or maybe taking someone to a facility in Massachusetts. It could be anywhere these days, as Howland Ambulance is becoming more widely recognized both for its professionalism and availability to help.
“We’ve been to Milo because their ambulances have been tied up,” McNally said. “Our place right now in this whole mix of the ambulance business is getting the calls no one else is able to do.”
The Howland ambulance runs overnight, on holidays and weekends. Long distance transports to Fort Kent, St. Joseph’s and beyond are part of the weekly routine.
Bre Graffam, Senior Executive Assistant at the Charles A. Dean Memorial Hospital in Greenville said Howland receives a lot of their business.
“Here at Charles Dean, whenever we have low staffing or a shortage of paramedics we call them,” she said. “My EMS Coordinator, Kevin Springer, said every time we have called (Howland) they have sent someone.”
“They are really great to work with.”
It has been a long road for the Howland crew to get to this point. Last year, the ambulance coordinator quit, causing the board to combine the role with the existing fire chief’s position. The department was not always reliably staffed in the past, so response to emergencies were inconsistent following Penobscot Valley Hospital’s elimination of its ambulance service.
Some could make a case that if it was any other fire chief, the ambulance service still would not be at the level it is at today. But it isn’t any other chief, it is Josh McNally, a person who has spent his entire life not just in public servic, but in emergency care. He has worked for Lifeflight. He is a full time firefighter and paramedic for Orono in addition to the town’s fire chief. His message has always been consistent.
“Josh very much preaches professionalism and patience and satisfaction when it comes to the ambulance service,” team member david Ireland said. “At the end of the day, what we do is about the patient.”
“Do what’s right by the patient.”
Word is spreading, too, as the department continues to grow. McNally said last month was a slow month, with only 100 calls for the emergency service, down from the 130. However, 100 calls is no small amount and any given day could see four or more calls come in. Like this past weekend when the team not only responded to Milo but also had scheduled transfers.
100 calls was enough to warrant the purchase of a third ambulance, and increased staffing during days with scheduled transfers. In addition to the transfers, Howland covers the emergency needs of Passadumkeag and Edinburg.
Enfield is covered by East Millinocket’s Lincoln team, though Howland covers most of the town for its fire service.
Doing what’s right by the patient also got media attention, too, during a time when ambulance drivers falling asleep is becoming all too common of an occurrence. Recently, a news station based in Portland, Maine, reached out to the chief because of his approach to keeping his medics and their patients safe. If his team is on the road overnight, especially after 1 a.m., he adds a third person – a second driver – to the rig. “I looked at when do people hit the wall.” McNally said. “Yes it cost more money, but what is the cost of wreaking an ambulance and hurting somebody? To me, it is a no-brainer.”
It is that extra care, not just for the patient but for his team, that has earned him the respect of his employees and inspires them to be professional, patient and focused on giving the best care they can.
“Josh, himself, is very selfless,” Ireland said. “He wants to make sure we are being taken care of. He said it keeps him up at night making sure we can make a paycheck.