NORWAY – Thirty years after joining Stephens Memorial Hospital in Norway, the base facility of the PACE Ambulance Service is packed and in need of a $4 million expansion.
In 2021, SMH rated the PACE Operations Building as a high priority for upgrades and renovations to improve building ventilation, add storage space for equipment and supplies, add expand housing and improve meeting and training spaces for staff training and community engagement.
U.S. Representative Jared Golden is working to make a significant portion of that award his own, calling for $1.6 million of PACE improvements to be paid for through community project funding for fiscal year 2023.
“We get hundreds of requests from across the district.” Golden said after a tour of SMH and PACE facilities on Monday. “In the House of Representatives, we are only allowed to select 15 projects this year. We have to be really selective.
Golden said two areas he focuses on are workforce and training issues, as well as expanding health care space capacity in rural communities. PACE provides 9-1-1 service to 18 communities in western Maine and seasonally to Sunday River Ski Resort in Newry. SMH’s fundraising campaign documentation indicates that in 2021, PACE recorded 2,987 responses to emergency calls, 4,927 total ambulance runs, 1,055 hospital transports and 181 interceptions, where it provided care and transport to patients requiring a higher level of care than community rescue teams.
PACE Ambulance Services Director Robert Hand provided the background for the proposed expansion and upgrade.
“Kimball Ambulance was a private provider in Norway and was sold to Stephens Memorial Hospital in 1990,” Hand explained. “The hospital paid for the construction of the building shell (on SMH land), and the paramedics and paramedics actually built the interior, for the most part.
“Since then, the standards have certainly changed. It’s not what you would see in a modern fire department or ambulance.
Hand said that in 1990 the field of first responders was male-dominated, but today about one-third of PACE personnel are female.
“We have these bunk rooms and they all kind of have to share a bedroom,” he said. “We want them to feel comfortable and have privacy. It was a team and a half then, now it’s three to five teams, depending on how much volume you have.
During times when PACE ambulances are brought into the bay, space for any other purpose is virtually eliminated. Storage of supplies and equipment has become limited over time.
“We are quite cramped. We are carrying a lot more material than before,” Hand said. “We need to have supply cabinets in the bay.”
The building’s outdated HVAC system also poses a safety hazard to employees due to vehicle exhaust.
“You have fumes, ice and salt there,” he continued. “We would like to have a supply and storage area, as well as a training and meeting room.
“I would like to see a training area big enough for the public, children, to come and visit. We want to do community CPR training, day classes. We would like to start for example the Safe Sitter program here .
Training is mostly done in the basement, also a cramped space. During the pandemic, training sessions would take place in the bay, an area not intended for conference-type gatherings.
The fundraising campaign for PACE began last month with a goal of $4 million. According to hospital figures, $165,000 has been raised as of August 5.
Within the community, Sunday River Ski Resort President Dana Bullen knows how important PACE is to the area. He wholeheartedly supports expansion.
“The relationship between PACE and Sunday River dates back to before my time,” Bullen told the Advertiser Democrat. “In season during open ski hours, a PACE team is on site and runs a clinic at our base lodge. In a case where a skier may have an injury beyond what our ski patrol can treat, such as a dislocated collarbone, PACE paramedics will be able to reset the injury.
Bullen said the paramedics who run the clinic at the lodge also supported life-saving care and transportation of heart attack victims to hospitals, and provided follow-up care to visitors and Sunday River staff.
“It’s a symbiotic relationship,” he said. “I support the renovation financially and personally. Sunday River provides financial support.
“We hope the communities of western Maine and our guests will join us in supporting PACE. They provide amazing care to our guests and our team. We want to make sure that this expansion becomes a certainty.
The 2022 Lakeside Norway Triathlon, a community success