Derby Line Ambulance Takes Heat

DERBY - Two Derby residents are taking heat for asking questions about how Derby Line Ambulance operates. An attorney now working with the ambulance calls the residents' actions "inappropriate."Nathan Pickard and Roger Gosselin have attended the last few Derby Select Board meetings to state their concerns.The select board has allowed limited discussion. Questions on whether or not the service is public or private and whether conversations should take place at a select board meeting have come up.Monday evening, during the select board’s regular meeting, Pickard approached the select board table, sat down and read a letter. Even after he was told not to do that. Pickard outlined his concerns and provided copies of information. When he headed toward the back of the room, he was met by an angry group who told him, “Sit down and shut up." Other heated words were exchanged. Chairman of the select board, Brian Smith, heard the altercation and said if it didn’t stop he would call the sheriff.In an interview following the meeting, Pickard said he thought one man was going to punch him in the face.Pickard asserts that he was a member of the Derby Line Ambulance, but Ambulance Chief Brian Fletcher says that is incorrect; he only went on a few calls with Gosselin. Pickard is a critical care paramedic in another county.Gosselin's position on the ambulance was terminated earlier this year because, according to him, he questioned how the service is run.Both Pickard and Gosselin say when the Derby Line ambulances are transporting patients to a hospital in another town, it leaves those in Derby without an ambulance service if an emergency occurs. Derby Line is part of mutual aid, and the local ambulance services work together when needed. If Derby Line cannot respond, the Newport Ambulance service does. When Newport is unavailable for its residents, Derby Line responds, a practice that has been in place for many years.But when other towns respond, it takes extra minutes in travel time, which could make a difference in an emergency, Pickard and Gosselin say.Attorney Jeff Spencer of Essex Junction, who specializes in ambulance services, is consulting with the Derby Line Ambulance regarding the concerns. The Derby Line Ambulance transports patients to other hospitals when needed, a practice that is common statewide, Spencer said in an interview Tuesday. “This is the way it is in the State of Vermont,” Spencer said. He said Derby is fortunate to have Newport close by to respond if needed.Derby residents give the Derby Line Ambulance service approximately $73,000 annually at town meeting time. If the voters choose to pay for more services, it would be up to them and the select board to do so, the attorney said.Among other concerns, Pickard questioned why the ambulance does not have a four wheel drive vehicle and the quality of the vehicles used. Pickard also questioned why, in 2008, the ambulance bought a Chevrolet truck for approximately $30,000.Fletcher said Tuesday that the truck is a utility vehicle for the ambulance and is used for a variety of reasons including plowing snow to get to residences when responding to emergency calls, or to tow the mass casualty trailer. The attorney pointed out that is it not uncommon for ambulance services to have utility vehicles, and said Newport Ambulance has two.A call to Newport Ambulance confirmed that they have two sport utility vehicles to use when needed, including for transporting extra personnel when the full ambulance vehicle is not needed.Fletcher and other ambulance members said that they have no trouble with the vehicles they use when responding to calls and do not see the need for four wheel drive. The ambulance vehicles are beyond the minimum standards, Spencer stated.However, the select board and residents would make the ultimate decision on if they want to increase spending and buy different vehicles.Spencer called the actions from Pickard and Gosselin regarding the ambulance “highly personalized and inappropriate.” He said if there are concerns with patient care, there are appropriate avenues to follow. “The community is being served; I haven’t heard that it is not, Spencer said.