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News Feature

Deer Isle
Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, December 13, 2012
Island Family Medicine to adapt to healthcare changes

by Faith DeAmbrose

Healthcare is changing and because of that, Island Family Medicine is changing too. That was the message from Blue Hill Memorial Hospital as it held a community meeting at Deer Isle’s Reach Performing Arts Center on December 5.

The meeting drew close to 150 people, and for approximately two hours those in attendance learned about changes soon to be implemented at the clinic as well as the larger organization of Blue Hill Memorial Hospital, which operates IFM in Stonington as well as three others primary care clinics in Blue Hill, Castine and Bucksport.

“The changes [associated with healthcare and delivery] are incredible and no one is more affected by them than the healthcare providers,” said BHMH President and CEO Greg Roraff. “We have asked [the providers] to abandon much of what they learned in medical school,” he said, explaining that the changes now require providers to move from a solo approach of administering care to a team approach. “It’s not going to be easy,” he added.

According to Vice President of Physician Services Elizabeth Schidzick-Brunelle, the changes coming to IFM in Stonington are the result of the changes necessary for meeting 21st century healthcare demands (and the Affordable Care Act) as well as the result of a series of focus groups conducted this past summer.

Those who participated in the focus groups were 29 people and a senior lunch group at Island Community Center.

Of the more than 3,000 full-time residents who live on the island, this represents 1 percent of the total population. When asked about the low number of participants, BHMH administrators said “our experienced facilitator felt we had an adequate sample of participants, representative of the community.”

Changes are coming

In many of the focus groups, said Schidzick-Brunelle, access to IFM as well as substance abuse counseling were discussed as concerns in the community. To improve access, additional time was added to available clinic hours in November, and in the spring, evening hours will be tested with a pilot program. On Saturdays, IFM patients will be able to go to Blue Hill Family Medicine for acute care needs. Also Dr. Kapsha is accepting new patients and Dr. Zelnick and Dr. Huff have opened availability to take on a few new patients. The practice is also actively recruiting a new clinical assistant position.

In terms of substance abuse assistance, beginning in January, a substance abuse counselor will provide services one day a week at IFM. Also in discussion is the creation of a tele-psychiatry pilot program in conjunction with Acadia Hospital where psychiatrists or psychiatry nurse practitioners would be available for consult to enhance behavioral health services at IFM. This could begin as early as spring.

IFM and BHMH

Those who participated in the focus groups were asked questions about IFM and BHMH, and according to Schidzick-Brunelle, almost all responses were favorable about the services provided at Island Family Medicine, but responses regarding BHMH showed that the parent organization “still needs some improvement,” especially in “rebuilding trust.”

Blue Hill Memorial Hospital has also made changes this past year, explained CEO Greg Roraff. As of November, the Emergency Department is always staffed by physicians; it has changed its hospitalists’ schedules so the attending physician works seven days on and seven days off and has hired a cardiologist who “filled up immediately,” said Roraff.

Speaking of obstetrics, Roraff said that while BHMH did close its OB Department, it still provides pre- and post-delivery care. “The only change is that the doctor will now delivery the baby in Ellsworth.”

After a formal presentation by Roraff and Schidzick-Brunell, members of the audience were given a chance to ask questions. Some asked about the possibility of IFM providing acute care in the event of a construction site injury or other non-life threatening problem that lies somewhere between primary care and emergency care. After much discussion it appeared that IFM was not aiming to be the place for this mid-level care, although those with questions were told to call the clinic first.

Others asked why none of the IFM staff was in attendance and were told that the staff was asked not to attend in order to ensure a “candid conversation,” said Roraff.

As the meeting ended, BHMH administrators said they expected to hold another meeting in six months.