SWANS ISLAND – For the past ten years, residents of Swan’s Island have relied on a vital service provided by the ferry system. But islanders are worried this may soon change.
Once a week, a small red cooler is transported from Swan’s Island to Bass Harbor by way of the Maine State Ferry Service.
It’s contents are critical to many residents, like Jackie May, who just over a year ago was taken by ambulance to Boston for liver failure. Now she waits on the transplant list, getting her blood drawn regularly at the Island’s Medical Clinic.
“When i first come home i was still not very good, and it was hard enough for me to get up and get ready and come up here and have my blood work done, let alone twice a week having to go on the ferry and go off, and trying to get back on the noon boat or an earlier boat or sitting there and waiting.” Jackie May, Relies On Ferry Employees To Transport Blood
May sees Donna Wiegle at the Mill Pond Health Center about once a month. Wiegle, the director, says being able to hand off the blood samples to the ferry employees to deliver to a courier on the mainland is a convenience and time saver for those living on the island.
“We probably send between 250 and 300 patient samples a year across on the ferry. Some of those folks might be lobstermen so they can come in here early in the morning and have their blood drawn then get down to the wharf and have a whole day out to haul. If they had to go to the mainland that would be a day that they definitely couldn’t fish.” Donna Wiegle, Director of Services, Mill Pond Health Center
What’s inside the cooler is causing a dispute though. As officials from the Maine State Ferry service say employees are not required to act as couriers.
Some say taking away the service would not only be an inconvenience but a hardship for those who struggle with their health here on the island.
“Well I think people might hesitate more in getting some of the physical needs met because they have to go off, they really have to plan on that travel and they might be reluctant to do it.” Beverly McAloon, Relies On Ferry Employees To Transport Blood
Wiegle has started a petition aiming to keep the service in place. She will meet with the Ferry Advisory Board on may 7th in Rockland to show them how the samples are packaged to ensure there is no risk of exposure. Hoping to express to them how crucial the role of the ferry employees is to island life.
“If not change their mind for all the islands, at least grant swans island an exemption because we have proven that it’s worked very well here and we have the support i think of the captains and the crew to want to continue to do this for us.”