Hospital ER moves to a new staffing model

ELLSWORTH — The emergency department at Maine Coast Memorial Hospital (MCMH) is now part of a collaborative with several other Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems (EMHS) hospitals.

The collaborative involves doctors from other EMHS hospitals working in the local ER as needed and vice versa. The new model went into effect Sept 20 and comes on the heels of four physicians leaving the emergency department.

The president of Maine Coast said the new system offers benefits to both the institution and its patients. He also said the decision to move to a collaborative model came before the four doctors left.

Also part of the collaborative are Blue Hill Memorial Hospital, Inland Hospital in Waterville and the flagship EMHS facility, Eastern Maine Medical Center (EMMC) in Bangor. Sebasticook Valley Hospital in Pittsfield is expected to join soon.

MCMH President John Ronan said using the collaborative will give Maine Coast a deeper pool of physicians to draw from when the Ellsworth ER is short-staffed.

“The goal, ultimately, is having a group of dedicated providers to be here permanently,” he explained. “To have a group of core people, collaborative employees, who are working primarily at one location.”

In the meantime, physicians from other hospitals in the collaborative and locum tenens (physicians or specialists who work on a short-term or long-term basis) will be filling the staffing voids in Ellsworth.

As physicians spend time working with other hospitals, particularly EMMC, it increases the familiarity they have with those facilities and the protocols in place there. Ronan said Maine Coast’s stroke protocols, for example, are now consistent with EMMC’s. That is particularly helpful if a stroke patient needs to be transferred from Ellsworth to Bangor.

Ronan said a patient transfer in general “becomes a little easier if you have the familiarity with the other organizations.”

“Transfers should be smoother, when they are needed,” he said.

Ronan said the decision to switch to the collaborative model at Maine Coast “was not a financial decision.” But he said it will, from a system-wide EMHS standpoint, be financially beneficial. He said it will reduce the need to rely on locum tenens, for example, who are paid at higher rates for their temporary services.

Ronan said he understands moving to a new system, coinciding with the departure of the four doctors, may cause some concern or uncertainty in the community. He said he wants to assure people that this is a positive move for the hospital.

“This is a great place to come and it will get better and better,” he said.

In a message to hospital employees, Ronan voiced a similar sentiment.

“While transition is never easy, we know our talented team of ED [emergency department] physicians will strengthen and improve the care our patients receive as a result of being part of the collaborative,” he said.

Ronan said the collaborative model will also allow Maine Coast to better tap into the education and experience of other EMHS doctors. He said that is one example of why affiliating with the larger system was a good move for Maine Coast.

Steve Fuller

Steve Fuller

Reporter at The Ellsworth American,
Steve Fuller worked at The Ellsworth American from 2012 to early 2018. He covered the city of Ellsworth, including the Ellsworth School Department and the city police beat, as well as the towns of Amherst, Aurora, Eastbrook, Great Pond, Mariaville, Osborn, Otis and Waltham. A native of Waldo County, he served as editor of Belfast's Republican Journal prior to joining the American. He lives in Orland.
Steve Fuller

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