Presque Isle’s new hospital chief desires to see native medical amenities unite to resolve Aroostook County’s distinctive well being care issues.
Longtime Fort Fairfield physician Jay Reynolds turned president of Northern Gentle A.R. Gould Hospital on Aug. 21. Greg LaFrancois, who served seven years at Gould, left in July to turn out to be president at Northern Gentle Jap Maine Medical Middle in Bangor.
About 26 % of Aroostook residents are 65 or older, in contrast with 22.5 % statewide, in keeping with the U.S. census. Cities are widespread, with solely 4 hospitals serving the world’s 68,000 residents. Folks typically need to journey to Bangor, 70 miles south of the county line, or farther for medical wants, which for some is troublesome.
Rural hospitals can’t resolve the challenges on their very own, however have to work collectively to assist sufferers get the care they want regionally, in keeping with Reynolds.
“We’re not solely rural, we’re distant rural,” Reynolds mentioned. “Many sufferers are older, with extra transportation points, and have issue touring to Bangor or Portland. For a lot of of our sufferers, [appointments there] would possibly as properly be on the moon.”
Including extra telehealth and residential visits would assist, and Reynolds desires to do this. However a few of these telehealth periods will likely be supplied by individuals who aren’t native, which is the wave of the long run, he mentioned.
It’s a difficult time in well being care as amenities battle again from pandemic employee shortages, closing clinics or slicing companies. A.R. Gould closed its Mars Hill Well being Middle a 12 months in the past, and Fort Kent’s Northern Maine Medical Middle closed its obstetrics unit as a result of start charges declined and there weren’t sufficient obstetricians.
Elsewhere in Maine, Bangor’s Jap Maine Medical eradicated some eye care in March. Central Maine Medical Middle in Lewiston closed its neonatal intensive care unit in 2021, and Rumford Hospital ended maternity companies in March.
Northern Maine Medical Middle, Cary Medical Middle in Caribou and Houlton Regional are unbiased amenities that don’t belong to Northern Gentle Well being. Reynolds sees them as companions, not opponents, who typically share gear and suppliers.
Through the pandemic, the amenities united to tell the general public, share care sources and ship vaccines. Every facility was too small to qualify for some pandemic-related federal help, however they mixed as a area and succeeded.
That spirit of cooperation will drive native hospitals’ future success, Reynolds mentioned.
Aroostook’s medical neighborhood has a protracted historical past of sharing, in keeping with Houlton Regional Hospital CEO Shawn Anderson.
“We share blood when obligatory and different crucial gear or provides that will in any other case trigger a delay in affected person care,” he mentioned. That cooperation prolonged into the pandemic. Nobody hospital had all of the solutions, however they discovered from each other and served sufferers collectively, he mentioned.
Anderson, too, sees hospitals uniting to carry care nearer to County sufferers. Sharing medical workers is one possibility. As an example, every hospital could not want a full-time specialist, however the amenities may share one that will work every week at every website, he mentioned.
Some individuals blame hospitals for the dearth of docs, but it surely’s merely the character of the work right now. It isn’t simply an Aroostook County phenomenon, he mentioned. The thought of a health care provider working on the similar small apply for 30 years doesn’t exist anymore.
That is due partly to poor reimbursement, together with Medicare, and docs searching for a greater high quality of life, in keeping with the Maine Hospital Affiliation.
With expertise, docs in Presque Isle can collaborate with colleagues anyplace, Reynolds mentioned.
“No person desires to be the one ‘X-ologist’ on the town,” he mentioned. “Right here they’ve colleagues in Bangor and systemwide. That helps draw them right here.”
As a result of A.R. Gould is rural, it will probably recruit worldwide physicians, Reynolds mentioned. Some international college students can stay within the nation for a time frame in the event that they work in underserved areas like rural Maine.
Greater than 1 / 4 of Gould’s medical personnel are international graduates, he mentioned.
The hospital retains from 85 to 90 % of its physicians yearly and has belongings which might be uncommon for smaller hospitals, Reynolds mentioned. He named its most cancers care heart, radiation oncology and a dialysis heart that gives kidney sufferers remedy nearer to house as examples.
However by far, the ability’s best power is its individuals, he mentioned.
Reynolds earned his medical diploma from the College of Vermont and accomplished his household medication residency at Maine Medical Middle in Portland earlier than beginning as a household physician in his native Fort Fairfield, in keeping with Northern Gentle Well being.
He has labored for A.R. Gould throughout all of his medical profession, together with as chief working officer and chief medical officer. He turned interim president upon LaFrancois’ departure.
He lives in Fort Fairfield along with his spouse, Karen. They’ve two daughters who dwell in Florida and a son in Fort Fairfield.
It’s an honor to serve individuals he’s recognized his total life, he mentioned.
“There’s an incredible want for that human-to-human contact,” he mentioned. “We’re over 100 years outdated, and sure we’ll be offering well being care 100 years from now.”