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Tim Talk

Tim-Talk-Thumbnail.jpgWhile COVID-19 has left a lasting effect on us all, it has hit our underserved populations exceptionally hard. During this episode, Tim talks with Leana Amaez, manager of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion in the ‎Maine Department of Health and Human Services, about how COVID-19 has disproportionately affected Black and Latinx Mainers and what the state is doing to ensure underrepresented groups have access to the vaccine. Leana discusses what we can learn beyond data when we take the time to speak with underserved communities. She also shares what the State has discovered in terms of building trust and delivering meaningful access to the COVID-19 vaccine to all communities. Tim discusses Northern Light Health’s strategy to ensure we directly partner with the communities that really need us and nurture relationships in order to get more people vaccinated.

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A rural healthcare promise

The COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced how important it is to offer safe, convenient, compassionate care close to home. In some of Maine’s most rural regions, our hospitals have been the sole providers of COVID-19 testing, treatment, and most recently, vaccination. They’ve brought local businesses and organizations together to coordinate the response. Without their leadership, the pandemic’s burden on our rural communities would have been much greater.

Given our strong commitment to rural healthcare, we have a responsibility to prepare our smaller hospitals to meet the care needs of today and for generations to come. That’s why Northern Light Health recently announced the launch of two rural hospital modernization projects that will shape the future of healthcare in Hancock and Piscataquis Counties. The projects will replace century-old hospital buildings at Northern Light Blue Hill Hospital and Northern Light CA Dean Hospital with new facilities.

The new facilities, which will be located on the existing hospital campuses, will include all private patient rooms, 24/7 full-service emergency departments, lab and imaging services, and more. A new FAA-approved helipad and ambulance garage and dormitory will be built at CA Dean Hospital.

A project to renovate and modernize inpatient care spaces at Northern Light Maine Coast Hospital is also in the planning stage.

Construction on the Blue Hill and CA Dean Hospital buildings will begin in the spring of 2022. Click here to learn more about the Blue Hill Hospital project, and click here for information about the CA Dean Hospital project.
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Investing in the care of tomorrow

During the pandemic, how we access healthcare changed. For instance, between Northern Light Health’s first and second quarter of FY20, telehealth visits skyrocketed from 9,489 to 86,787 systemwide. With more services occurring online through a computer screen, tablet, or smartphone, the need for strong telehealth connectivity throughout Maine became increasingly important almost overnight. However, poor broadband connectivity in Maine’s most remote areas as well as the need for equipment upgrades has posed challenges. Now, that all is about to become easier. The University of Maine System has received a $1 million USDA Distance Learning and Telemedicine Program grant, which was the product of collaboration among the Maine Center, all University of Maine System universities, Maine Law, and Northern Light Health. The grant will pay for technology improvements at 42 locations across the state, including ten Northern Light Health sites.

Using US Department of Agriculture funds, the University of Maine System will build out HIPAA-compliant telemedicine exam and provider rooms at Northern Light Primary Care in Clinton, Pittsfield, Newport; and Northern Light AR Gould Hospital in Presque Isle, Northern Light Mayo Hospital in Dover-Foxcroft, Northern Light Maine Coast Hospital in Ellsworth, and Northern Light Inland Hospital in Waterville. Jennifer Brewer, associate vice president of Telehealth, Northern Light Health, comments, “We are very excited by the enhancements we’ll be able to make through this collaboration. More than ever, we need to preserve access to care no matter where Mainers call home. We are very grateful to be a part of this University of Maine partnership.”

Additionally, the University of Maine School of Nursing will work in collaboration with Northern Light Health, Northern Light Sebasticook Valley Hospital, and other health partners to enhance telehealth academic training for BSN, MSN, and nurse practitioner students. As stated in an announcement released by UMaine in March, “This grant will expand telemedicine training for new healthcare professionals with two new student telemedicine and remote patient monitoring systems at the UMaine School of Nursing that will include equipment such as mobile cardiac monitors, bluetooth-enabled blood pressure monitors, smartphone dermatoscopes, and smartphone otoscopes.”

In hearing the announcement, Robert Schlager, vice president and senior physician executive at Northern Light Sebasticook Valley Hospital and Northern Light Inland Hospital shared, “If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it is that we need to be ready and able to provide healthcare in new and unique ways, and telemedicine is now the price of admission. These investments will not only improve our patients’ access to care, but the quality of their care.”

Click here for more information on the USDA’s investment in distance learning and telemedicine.