Penobscot Community Health Care (PCHC) was recently awarded a Rural Health Transformation grant from the Maine Health Access Foundation (MeHAF) for continuing work to build a sustainable urgent care program in the Jackman region.
MeHAF awarded three other projects in Franklin, Hancock, and Oxford counties with the intent of supporting programs that provide access to a broad variety of non‐traditional health services including social services supports. As Maine sees the closure of a number of health facilities in rural Maine, supporting not only existing work, but providing funds to support innovative work in these communities remains an important focus for MeHAF. The new 2019 Rural Health Transformation Grants support the continued work of last year’s Rural Health Transformation Catalyst Grantees.
“As focus on promoting equitable care for every person in Maine we must consider where gaps are present,” says Barbara Leonard, MeHAF’s President & CEO. “With 61 percent of our state’s population residing in areas designated rural, it is imperative we provide funding to organizations working on new approaches to care and solutions to address the need for critical local services.”
Since 2014, PCHC has provided accessible and affordable primary care services including family medicine, mental health, X‐ray, care management, laboratory services, and 24/7 acute care at Jackman Community Health Center (JCHC). Due the region’s remoteness, 24/7 acute care is necessary. Any life threatening illnesses or injuries must be stabilized in Jackman to allow for the local ambulance to have enough time to transport the patient to the nearest emergency rooms in Greenville (55 miles away) or in Skowhegan (75 miles away).
“Our staffing model for 24/7 acute care is fragile. We rely heavily on the small staff at JCHC, per diem providers, and the Jackman‐Moose River Fire and Rescue Department,” says Lori Dwyer, PCHC’s President & CEO. “In talking with citizens from Jackman, Moose River, and Dennistown, we recognized quickly that the need to develop a more sustainable rural healthcare delivery model. Any long‐term financially viable rural health medical care and workforce solutions found in the Moose River region could be spread to other areas of Maine. We are thankful to MeHAF for their continued support and visionary thinking around rural health innovations.”
PCHC will use the bulk of the MeHAF funding to hire outside consultants and subject matter experts to finalize development and potential implementation of a Community Care Paramedic Practitioner model in Jackman. This innovative model will strengthen the local health system, lead to sustainability of 24‐7 acute care services, and will be tailored to assist in sustainability of primary care services.
The Community Care Paramedic Practitioner model proposes enhanced training for critical care paramedics, expanding their skills to include general urgent and sick care, disposition medicine (determining if a patient needs a high level of care), and a broad understanding of chronic disease. The vision, once implemented, is that these practitioners will share on‐call duties for emergency response with the town’s EMS department, and when not required at emergencies will be utilized to meet other health needs in the community.
Some of the funding has been allocated to hold two community events throughout the year, as the input and involvement of local residents is necessary for the success of the model. Additionally, PCHC is providing a 20% match in funds for this project.
PCHC’s project partners and consultants include First to Last Health Services Solutions, Life Flight/Northern Light EMS, the Jackman Town Manager, Jackman‐Moose River Fire and Rescue Department, and Eastern Maine Community College.