ELLSWORTH — Bucksport Regional Health Center is expanding into Ellsworth and employing a former Maine Coast Memorial Hospital doctor in the process.
Come this fall, the health center will offer medical and behavioral health services at 37 Commerce Park in Ellsworth, which is the location of Dr. Stephen Nightingale’s practice.
Nightingale will be the physician seeing patients at the center.
The center’s chief executive officer, Carol Carew, said that a certified nurse practitioner would be hired and, in the future, an additional physician.
“The clinic is relatively small and we will only be able to accommodate three or four providers,” Carew said.
A little history:
In 2015, Nightingale, who had been doing business as Coastal Health Center, discontinued his private practice and joined Maine Coast Memorial Hospital.
At the time, Nightingale and former MCMH President and Chief Executive Officer Charlie Therrien cited the regulatory, billing and reimbursement challenges of running an independent practice.
Current MCMH and Blue Hill Memorial Hospital CEO and President John Ronan said he had learned recently of Nightingale’s departure.
Ronan said he was surprised to hear Nightingale’s news “given our talks” with him.
“We wish Dr. Nightingale success in his new practice,” Ronan said. “I don’t know what his business model is going to be.”
Nightingale did not return an email seeking comment before publication.
Back to the Bucksport entity for whom Nightingale will now be working: Bucksport Regional Health Center.
The center, headquartered on Broadway in Bucksport, is designated as a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC).
Carew explained the center is “a non-profit, federally funded clinic that provides access to all in the community regardless of their ability to pay.”
Location is a factor in where FQHCs are located, according to Carew.
Ellsworth is not a designated area for such health centers “but some of the towns in our service area for the site are” so designated, Carew said. “Also important is the availability for folks to access primary care services as a new patient, which in Ellsworth is currently six months to one year.”
FQHCs “provide primary care services in underserved areas,” according to the Health Resources and Services Administration, which is an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Ronan said, “We don’t see a need for a Federally Qualified Health Center to come to the area.”
The hospital president cited the recent opening of a walk-in clinic at its Resort Way medical offices. The clinic is open daily and customers do not need to be patients at the primary care practice to be seen.
The Bucksport Regional Health Center is open by appointment as will be the case in Ellsworth.
“Our core business is primary care, with many centers providing behavioral health and dental services, which BRHC [Bucksport Regional Health Center] provides,” Carew said in an email.
“We have been serving Bucksport and about a dozen surrounding towns for more than 40 years,” said Carew. “It has been a longtime goal to expand into Ellsworth and bring the high-quality health care that we are known for to that community. And we are fortunate to have Dr. Nightingale on our team to bring it all to fruition.”
Nightingale is board certified in internal medicine, pediatrics, and skilled in vascular work, said Carew. He is a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Physicians.
The health center provides “medical, dental and behavioral health services to everyone, including the uninsured and underinsured, regardless of their ability to pay,” said Carew. “We, as a Federally Qualified Health Center, can meet the needs of patients that sometimes other health care practices cannot.”
For example, BRHC offers the 340B program, which provides discounted medications to patients, along with the Prescription Assistance Program that provides free medications through pharmaceutical companies. A sliding fee scale is also available for patients with lower incomes.
According to the Health Resources and Services Administration, FQHCs “must meet a stringent set of requirements, including providing care on a sliding fee scale based on ability to pay and operating under a governing board that includes patients.”
Carew said, “These are difficult times in health care and many people are struggling with the cost of care and with increasing insurance premiums, which may prevent them from seeing a provider.”
Federally qualified health centers “across the country are changing that scenario for thousands of people,” said Carew.
“It’s exciting to bring all of these critical services to the Ellsworth community,” said Carew. “The best thing about us is that we take everyone. If you have great insurance, come see us. If you don’t have insurance or if you have MaineCare, come see us. We offer everyone the same first-rate health care.”
The Ellsworth location will offer medical and behavioral health services, she said.
For more information call 469-7371.