BANGOR – Penobscot Community Health Care (PCHC) has announced that, effective March 20, it began curtailing most face-to-face, non-emergency visits and instead seeing patients via telemedicine or through the telephone to the maximum extent possible, based on CDC guidance. All PCHC walk-in care sites will remain open. Telemedicine services are being phased in with all eligible providers expected to be equipped to provide telemedicine by the end of the day Wednesday, March 25.
All PCHC Walk-in care clinics will continue seeing patients with influenza-like symptoms (cough, fever, shortness of breath) and other acute care issues at locations in Bangor, Brewer, Old Town, Belfast and Jackman. PCHC asks that patients call first if they are experiencing a cough, fever, or shortness of breath so that providers can best provide care and do so in a manner that is safe for patients, staff, and the community.
PCHC has also curtailed dental visits at its dental center significantly, and will remain open only for emergency dental visits, 8 am to 5 pm, Monday-Friday. Podiatry, chiropractic, speech, audiology, physical therapy, osteopathic manipulation, and office-based dermatology procedures have also been curtailed, being offered only in cases where the need is urgent or where service can be accessed via telehealth or phone. PCHC’s Unlimited Solutions Clubhouse has closed its community space to public traffic, but Clubhouse staff continue to provide services by telephone and telemedicine to members. PCHC’s Hope House emergency shelter will continue to serve the needs of individuals experiencing homelessness in this crisis, with ramped infection control and screening protocols. These curtailments are due to the rapid spread of COVID-19 and are temporary, although an exact date when operations will return to normal has not been announced.
PCHC is tracking CDC guidance carefully and will continue to update with any changes.
“All public health experts are recommending social distancing and isolate-at-home to contain the transmission of this virus,’” said Lori Dwyer, President and CEO of PCHC, “and PCHC, as an ambulatory care provider, is adhering to that advice to the maximum extent possible while still serving its critical role as a safety net healthcare provider. PCHC will continue during this crisis to ensure basic needs are met and people with non-emergent but important healthcare needs are able to access services outside of the emergency department. The idea is to allow our EDs to focus on true emergencies and managing the patient surge we expect as COVID-19 takes hold in our community.”
“We are doing this because we know through data from other countries that ‘sheltering-in-place’—meaning isolating at home to maximize social distancing and closing all non-essential business—is the quickest and most effective way to flatten the curve and contain the spread of this virus. Containment of the virus is our top priority right now, so that we do not overwhelm our hospitals and can manage the influx of new patients who contract this virus.”
That said, notes Dwyer, “Because COVID-19 is clearly not the only health issue people have right now or will have in the coming days and months, PCHC will absolutely continue treatment and prevention services to the maximum extent possible via telemedicine and other electronic means, so patients should call us to get further guidance on how to meet their healthcare needs, whether related to COVID-19 or not.”
The Hope House shelter remains open to care for the homeless community, with modified protocols and screening prior to entrance to the facility.
All PCHC employees who can work from home are being set up to do that and will return to work when it is deemed safe for them to return to work. Critical staff are being moved to ensure maximum social distancing and isolation when at work.
The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Maine is changing rapidly. For the most up-to-date information regarding confirmed cases, recommendations, symptoms and resources, visit the Centers for Disease Control, at www.maine.gov/dhhs/coronavirus (Maine CDC) or www.cdc.gov/coronavirus (Federal CDC).
PCHC has practices and services in the Bangor area, Belfast, Jackman, and Old Town. Walk in care clinics remain open in six locations.
More details about PCHC are available at www.pchc.com.
About Penobscot Community Health Care
Penobscot Community Health Care (PCHC) is a non-profit, Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) founded in 1997 to ensure access to comprehensive, integrated primary health care services for all to improve the health and wellbeing of patients and the Maine communities served. Seventeen practices and program service sites in the Bangor area, and in Belfast and Jackman, offer a wide range of services, including family medicine, dental, pediatrics, geriatrics, mental health, medication assisted treatment and substance use disorder services, urgent/walk-in care services, as well as specialty services such as speech, audiology and chiropractic services, retail and primary care pharmacy, and healthcare for the homeless. Online at www.pchc.com.