History of the Southwest Harbor/Tremont Nursing Service – Ambulance Service

Emergency Medical Services By Community Members For Their Community

The Service began in World War I when the ladies of Tremont and Southwest Harbor gathered together to aid our troops overseas by rolling bandages. However, they soon recognized that there was much that needed doing at home as well. So they formed the Ladies Aid which, in turn, became the Southwest Harbor/Tremont Nursing Association which provided support for a Town Nurse for the area as well as access to home health care equipment through a lending program. Later, largely due to the efforts of Les White, Jr., an ambulance was procured. In 1961, the Association was incorporated under its present name as a 501 (c) (3) non-profit public charity organization.

In the recent years, our two towns and the Service have seen many changes.  While the Town Nurse position and the lending of equipment no longer exist, there now are two medical centers and the Southwest Harbor/Tremont Ambulance Service, which is the AKA legal name and present primary focus of the Southwest Harbor/Tremont Nursing Service. With two excellently equipped ambulances and on-duty staff, it offers 24 hour, 7 days a week emergency medical coverage on a year-round basis within our two towns plus, through a mutual aid agreement, support to our neighboring towns. Historically, ambulances  were used simply to transport people to hospitals as rapidly as possible. Under our present system, medical analysis and care begin with the arrival of the crew and ambulance at the location of the person(s) in need. Rapid communication with hospitals, police, fire departments, life flight helicopters, Coast Guard, and other ambulance services is quickly available by radio through our local Southwest Harbor dispatcher and by cell phone, as needed. All of these can and have been brought into play at various times to help our friends, relatives, neighbors, and visitors, whether the need has been a child stung by a bee at a picnic, an elderly person who collapsed at 2 am during a winter storm, a lobsterman hurt at sea, or someone severely injured in an automobile accident.     

Shifting gears a bit, a word or two needs to be said about the organization, namely, what is the Nursing Service? It is the citizens of Southwest Harbor and Tremont who choose to join this organization called the “Nursing Service”. It meets twice a year, and, among other items of business, elects the board of directors and officers from its membership. The board and officers meet monthly and keep the organization running. The Ambulance Service is operated by the Nursing Service and has its own structure and employees. The Ambulance Service interfaces with the Board of Directors through the Ambulance Operations Committee. While the ambulance service takes most of the time and energy of the Nursing Service, there are clearly other present and growing needs in our two towns. Yet, we find that the number of people who are making the effort to support this vital service is shrinking. While there are many good reasons for this, without more individuals willing to spend just a couple of hours or so every month or two, the community part of the structure will disappear, taking with it everything including the ambulance service.      

Where do we see ourselves going? At the present time, continuing with the ambulance service is priority No.1. Priority No.2, subject to change, is to address the needs of the growing number of elderly in Southwest Harbor and Tremont who, while not physically able to address all their needs as they once did, would be able to stay in their homes if they had a professional visiting nurse stop by two or three times a week and check in on them. With enough funds and an energetic committee, the Nursing Service could provide the structure for such a program. Priority No.3 – lets share ideas and see where we go. It’s your organization!