ORONO, Maine — When operations at Cutler Health Center at the University of Maine are taken over by Eastern Maine Medical Center in January, students will have access to a broader range of on-campus health care services and payment options. UMaine and EMMC announced the privatization agreement this week.
Fewer than a quarter of UM students use Cutler Health Center, mostly because the university lacks the ability to bill private insurers or Maine-Care, the state’s Medicaid program, according to university officials. Low use and the need to save on operational costs have prompted the center to curtail its hours of operation, further limiting students’ access to care.
“The health center is critically important to UMaine and to our students,” said Robert Dana, UM’s vice president for student affairs and dean of students, in a prepared statement. “By increasing access to services such as preventive care and treatment for acute medical issues, we will realize multiple benefits that will enhance the overall student experience.”
Under the terms of the agreement, Cutler Health Center will join forces with EMMC Orono Family Medicine, one of six primary care practices managed by the hospital through its nonprofit Norumbega Medical Specialists affiliate.
“This is an outstanding opportunity to partner with the university and provide innovative services to a unique population,” said Mike Donahue, administrator of the Norumbega division. Donahue said details of the contract are still being worked out.
Dr. Glenn Rampe will be the lead physician for the new campus health center while continuing to see patients at EMMC Orono Family Medicine. Rampe said UM students will have a choice of being seen on campus or at the Main Street office. Students will benefit from the EMMC electronic medical records system, a new secure e-mail system and other innovations, he said. In addition, clinical staff will provide outreach to campus groups such as fraternity and sorority organizations.
Rampe said he expects to hire two new physicians and three nurse practitioners as well as support staff for the campus health center.
Cutler Health Center has the equivalent of 21 full-time employees, including clinical and support staff. All are members of the Maine Professional Staff Association, which represents university staff in labor negotiations. The unionized employees will be terminated from their positions effective Dec. 28, according to Robin Toderian, vice president of auxiliary services at the university, and will be eligible to apply for any openings at the reorganized clinic.
In time, the clinic may expand its hours of operation to include evenings and weekends, as well as extending health care services to nonstudents including faculty and staff.
The new arrangement is expected to save the university budget about $1.4 million a year.
EMMC was one of three Bangor-based health care organizations that responded to a preliminary request for proposals issued in January 2007. The others were Penobscot Community Health Care and Sunbury Medical Associates.