Overnight services available at the sole emergency medical facility in the northern Somerset County town of Jackman are scheduled to end by September, a prospect that’s alarming locals in this rural community who would have to travel an hour or more to obtain such care elsewhere.

That disclosure came after comments Friday morning by Gov. Paul LePage, who apparently was referring to the changes when he told a Portland Chamber of Commerce breakfast audience that an emergency medical facility in Jackman was in danger of closing.

Locals in need of overnight emergency care might need to travel at least an hour to the nearest hospital when Jackman Community Health Center stops offering 24-hour emergency services.

“Local people are in a panic as to what they are going to do,” said Alan Duplessis, a selectman who used to be chairman of the board of Jackman Community Health Center. “Are they going to have family members calling for an ambulance at midnight and not get care until they reach Skowhegan, which is 75 miles away?”

Jackman, with a population of about 860 residents, is also a scenic tourist destination along the U.S. Route 201 corridor, just 15 miles from the Canadian border.

Duplessis recalled two times when he received urgent care from the facility at night — once when he had a ruptured appendix, and another time when he had cut his hand while repairing a generator and needed 13 stitches.


“I’m not saying people are going to die,” he said, “but I would have bled for an hour and a half if I had to go to Skowhegan. It’s not something you would call an ambulance for, but that’s a long ride.”

Two health care systems now offer services at the Jackman facility and have pooled their resources to keep it open at night. But one of the systems, MaineGeneral Health, can’t afford to operate there anymore; and the other, Penobscot Community Health Care, can’t afford to run the facility independently at night.

Penobscot Community Health Care will continue to offer primary and urgent care during the day, and those daytime hours will be extended, said Noah Nesin, the system’s vice president of medical affairs.

But MaineGeneral, which operates a nursing home at the Jackman facility and manages its overnight emergency care, will be ending those services by Sept. 1, said Joy McKenna, a MaineGeneral spokeswoman, in a emailed statement.

MaineGeneral also operates a flagship hospital in north Augusta, the Alfond Center for Health; and an outpatient facility in Waterville.

A spokesman for the Maine Hospital Association couldn’t be reached for comment Friday on the Jackman situation.


Mitchell Berkowitz, Jackman’s interim town manager, said by phone Friday morning that MaineGeneral representatives have notified him and other local officials of the change. He said a public meeting has been scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 7, at Forest Hills School to provide more details and hold a discussion about the changes.

“We’ve been reaching out to elected officials in an effort to coordinate and look for resources,” Berkowitz said. “It isn’t just a Jackman issue; it’s the whole region that is affected without urgent care capabilities.”

Just a handful of patients come to the Jackman facility at night, and without MaineGeneral’s staff working there, Nesin said, “we can’t sustain coverage for 24 hours a day. It’s not financially sustainable without generating revenue. If you’re just sitting waiting for urgent care, there’s a big expense for that.”

The 18-bed nursing home has been hemorrhaging money for years, and on May 19, MaineGeneral informed the staff and local officials that it would be closing, according to McKenna. Nesin said declining reimbursement rates probably have affected MaineGeneral’s ability to maintain the rural services for a small number of patients.

“In the past decade, the facility has had substantial losses, averaging $630,000 a year,” she said. “MaineGeneral’s board of directors and senior management made the hard decision that we can no longer subsidize the nursing home in Jackman.”

Ten residents are staying in the home now, and MaineGeneral is working to place them in other facilities, McKenna said. MaineGeneral also funds a local ambulance service that operates at the Jackman facility, and it’s now working with members of the community to keep that service going.


Meanwhile, the nearest alternatives for urgent care are at least an hour away — in Skowhegan and Greenville. The drive can be even longer when the weather is treacherous or moose wander onto U.S. Route 201, Duplessis said.

Besides fearing cuts to urgent care, Duplessis also is concerned that residents of the nursing home — such as his father-in-law — could end up living 100 miles away from Jackman.

“It’s going to be a hardship for families,” he said. “We go to visit every day now, but we certainly won’t go every day if it’s in Augusta.”

Duplessis said he wished MaineGeneral officials had announced the closure a year earlier so the town would have had more time to search for funding sources or providers to run the facility around-the-clock. He’s now contacting state and federal officials who might be able to help. He said the town’s Fire Department might take over the ambulance service, he but worries about its viability.

Several state lawmakers have invited LePage to learn more about the challenges confronting the community health center, according to LePage spokeswoman Adrienne Bennett.

In his remarks Friday morning, the governor was describing the challenges to sparsely populated states such as Maine when he briefly mentioned the health center, Bennett said. Staff members from the governor’s office are working with Jackman-area officials who are looking for alternatives to the programs that will be ending, she said.


Penobscot Community Health Care, which receives funding from the federal government to offer primary care in the Jackman facility, also is searching for providers that might be able to replace the services now provided by MaineGeneral, Nesin said.

Nesin said that MaineGeneral has been a “great” and “highly communicative” business partner. He also sympathized with the residents who could be affected by the loss of a nursing home and emergency care facility.

“These kinds of services are part of the core of a community, and a community’s sense of safety and well-being,” Nesin said. “When these services are threatened, it really rocks these communities.”

Charles Eichacker — 621-5642


Twitter: @ceichacker

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