Months after losing staffing for around the clock emergency care, Jackman residents may find temporary relief in legislation that if passed would appropriate nearly half a million dollars to the community health clinic in order to maintain the on-call services on which the region now relies.

State Rep. Chad Grignon, R-Athens, a sponsor of the bill and Jackman’s elected representative, presented the proposal for a one-time stop-gap allocation of $495,000 at a public hearing in Augusta Tuesday as a means to sustain the center until a long-term solution can be worked out.

Without funding to keep those services going, the 800 Jackman residents and residents from the surrounding area would have to travel either 75 miles to Skowhegan or 50 miles to Greenville in order to receive emergency care.

What makes this particular situation particularly urgent, Grignon said in an interview Wednesday, is the thousands of tourists who come to snowmobile, hunt, fish and ride ATVS. In addition, there are a large number of people in the area who work in the forestry industry, which is one of the most dangerous jobs out there, Grignon said.

The Jackman Community Health Center lost round the clock emergency care in June 2017 when MaineGeneral Health announced they could no longer afford to operate at the health center any longer. MaineGeneral, which operated a nursing home and managed the overnight and weekend emergency care, and Penobscot Community Health Care had been pooling their resources to keep it open at night.

But without MaineGeneral’s funding or staff, Penobscot cannot afford to keep the facility running independently after regular business hours.

Currently, the center still offers primary and urgent care from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. but has converted to an on-call system for nighttime and weekends so that a nurse, physician’s assistant and doctor could be available at the center if a patient were in need of immediate care. However, Penobscot is currently facing a $250,000 shortfall in revenue at the Jackman center and needs funding for the on-call staff. According to Sarah Dubay, a spokeswoman for Penobscot Community Health Care, that’s what makes the proposed stop-gap funding so vital.

Some legislators are wary of a short-term solution, according to a report from Maine Public. Democratic state Rep. Dale Denno, a member of the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee, said lawmakers are usually reluctant to provide one-time allocations, “because we have no way of knowing whether other communities might have equal claims to that same need, or whether that should be spread out among others.”

Dubay said Penobscot is actively looking to conduct private fundraisers and apply for grants, but that won’t be a sustainable solution for the long-term success of the Jackman facility.

Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King have begun work on a fix at the federal level, which may help keep Jackman’s facility open in the long run, according to town selectman Alan Duplessis.

Duplessis said the senators have put in a request to the Health Resources and Services Administration, an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, to alter the way the facility bills patients.

Currently, Duplessis explained, the facility uses a sliding scale when they bill patients, which means they are not always charging as much as it costs to actually treat a patient, which in turn loses money for the facility.

The sliding scale billing is part of being a federally qualified health center, which the town agreed to when it achieved that status. But Duplessis said that if the agency can make an exception, it will solve most of their funding problems.

In the meantime, the Health and Human Services Committee will have a work session on the stopgap legislation Monday.

Emily Higginbotham — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @EmilyHigg

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