UPDATE: The lawsuit was filed on December 2, 2022!
Emergency Medical Services across Maine have been pushed to the brink. As with the rest of Healthcare prior to the pandemic, Maine Emergency Medical Services (EMS) organizations were already struggling with staff shortages. That staffing shortage has since become critical, and many of the communities across the State are dangerously underserved.
In October 2021, countless First Responders were terminated or strong-armed into resignation under a temporary COVID-19 vaccine requirement issued by the Maine EMS Board. Then in August 2022, communities lost even more first responders as Maine EMS adopted yet another mandate.
The result has been a critical shortage of first responders across the state, and delayed response times when Mainer’s need emergency medical services the most.
Health Choice Maine is mounting an effort to fight back. Not only for the emergency responders who have been discriminated against, denied their rights, and removed from their careers; but also the citizens across Maine that alone bear the brunt of the cost of such a mandate. Afterall, at the end of the day it is not the Governor, or the members of the Maine EMS board that will pay this price. It is the normal people of Maine like us who will call for an ambulance that will never arrive.
We are already well on our way to this endeavor, but we need your help! We are specifically looking for three things:
- First responders affected by the Covid vaccine mandate: If you are a first responder (firefighter, ambulance driver, EMR, EMT, paramedic, etc.) that has been terminated, or otherwise affected by this mandate, please fill out our First Responder form.
- Mainers who have used emergency services: If you are a Maine resident and you, or someone you know, have used emergency medical services in the last 12 months, please fill out our Emergency Services Experience form.
- Support: Whether you are someone that has been affected, or just someone that believes medical decisions should remain personal, we need your support. Help us spread the word, volunteer as you’re able, and help us meet our fundraising goals to continue this work.
How Did We Get Here?
In August 2021, Health Choice Maine watched as our repeated concerns were realized. At the behest of Governor Mills, Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) moved to adopt a wide-ranging COVID-19 vaccine requirement for Healthcare Facilities.
In the initial rule, DHHS attempted to rewrite the definition of “Healthcare Facility” to include Dental Health Practices and EMS Organizations.
Meanwhile, in anticipation of this rule, the Maine EMS Board adopted a temporary rule that required vaccination for all emergency responders who provided direct patient care—and they defined “direct patient care” as anyone who was within six feet of a patient for more than 15 minutes. This affected almost everyone in the vast network of first responders across Maine. It impacted firefighters, ambulance drivers, emergency medical personnel, and even volunteer responders.
While all of this was happening, Health Choice Maine worked collaboratively to sue Maine DHHS. One of our main points of contention in this lawsuit was that they had redefined “Healthcare Facility.” In doing so they had overstepped their authority and were attempting to utilize legislative powers.
Our case overall was ultimately unsuccessful—save one small but important detail. Following our hearing, DHHS removed Dental and EMS organizations from their facility definition.
So this should have been the end of it, right? Well, in a normal world, yes. However, Maine EMS moved forward with enforcement of their temporary rule. In October 2021, first responders across Maine were terminated. In November 2021, the Maine EMS rule quietly expired, but the damage was done. Countless First Responders were gone, and while they could have been reinstated in November, their positions remain largely unfilled to this day.
In the hardest hit regions of Maine, such as Washington County, countless positions are empty. Communities have gone underserved, people have been denied the proper emergency medical care they COULD have had. Many EMS organizations voiced opposition to the mandates.
Maine EMS issues a second mandate
In July 2022, Maine EMS made the wildly confusing choice to adopt another rule, despite the fact that today we know more about COVID-19, and more about the vaccine’s efficacy (or rather the lack thereof). Regardless of the EMS Departments struggling under critical staffing shortages.
Regardless of it all, they quietly adopted a permanent rule requiring not only the COVID vaccine, but the flu shot as well, for all emergency responders who work for a licensed EMS organization. In this new rule, they also adopted an updated version of the Medical Exemption form. This form asks for very personal details about the employee, and disqualifies most emergency responders who held legal medical exemptions. This led to even more terminations.
In a time when more people than ever are needing efficient and experienced first responders, why is this Board seemingly sabotaging the emergency response system across Maine?
We ask you to please support us as we work tirelessly to restore medical choice to our brave first responders, and restaff Maine’s struggling EMS organizations.