Cross-border ambulance services may change
American ambulance services are taking a second look at how they provide cross-border ambulance services in the border region. In the past, local American ambulance services have transported patients across the border, either transferring visiting Canadians from an American hospital, where they were initially treated, to a Canadian hospital for further treatment, or transporting American patients back into the United States.
Canadian ambulance services, as a rule, don’t cross into the United States.
However, recently, ambulance teams have faced lengthy delays and “hassles” while trying to cross back into the United States. “The mutual aid is holding, but there have been troubles, mainly get- ting back into the United States although we’ve been talked to on both sides now. One of our guys was delayed for around twenty minutes because of a faulty chip in his enhanced driver’s license,” explained Mike Parody, the head of Newport Ambulance Service.
“Derby Line Ambulance used to go back and forth without any problems; they knew us. But now, even if the lights and sirens are going, they might search the vehicle,” said Assistant Chief, Brian Berry, whose been with the Derby Line Ambulance Service for ten years. “Not everyone has a passport or the new ID so it’s getting a lot harder to do transfers. Last week, the Newport hospital wanted to transfer a patient to Montreal and the Missisquoi Ambulance Service refused, Newport refused, they called us and we said no. Missisquoi ended up going the next morning,” added Mr. Berry.
Mr. Berry was quick to mention that the strain is with the United States Customs and Border Services, not with the American Border Patrol. “I like having the Border Patrol guys around. They check on us when we’re on a call way out in the boondocks and they sometimes help us carry out patients. They help us a lot,” he said.
The issue of border delays for ambulance personnel was brought up at last Wednesday’s Emergency Medical Services district board meeting. “We discussed about getting the enhanced licenses for our employees, but that is costly (there are forty members on the Newport Ambulance squad). There are also legal concerns that we’re working on, liability and licensing issues. We need to look into it further to see what the problems are,” said Mr. Parody, adding: “Our main concern is that patients get taken care of.”
Both Derby Line Ambulance and Newport Ambulance are asked to transfer patients into Canada only a few times a year. Missisquoi Ambulance Service, which serves the Jay Peak area, is also asked to transfer patients into Canada several times a year.
When Customs and Border Protection was asked to comment on the delays, they sent this reply: “Management from Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in Vermont meets with emergency service companies along the Northern Border in New England annually to discuss the facilitation and expeditious processing of their emergency vehicles. CBP and the emergency transport stakeholders have built a positive relationship to assure that both our needs are met and the safety of the citizens along the border crossings are a priority. We are not aware of any delays concerning emergency transport vehicles.” Theodore Woo, the Public Affairs