Maine’s EMS system in crisis

Maine is the least densely populated state this side of the Missouri River, and that’s put it on the frontlines of a nationwide crisis for Emergency Medical Services — the ambulance, air ambulance, and rescue teams that respond to 911 calls and transfer patients between medial facilities. The root problem is a broken reimbursement model, with the federal Medicare program at its center, but the effects are being felt across small town America.

I wrote about the crisis this week in a special two-part series for the Portland Press Herald and Maine Sunday Telegram, with photos from colleague Ben McCanna.

The main story, in this week’s Telegram, describes the crisis, which has many EMS officials warning that after years of strain, the system is coming apart. It describes why this is happening, what its meant for patients and health care delivery, and what might be done to solve it.

The companion story, in this past Monday’s Press Herald, is on the frontline paramedics and EMTs who have borne the brunt of the fraying funding model, holding the system together via long hours, multiple jobs, and poor pay, even as their capabilities (and training demands) have increased.

I hope you’ll take a look.