LINCOLN, Maine — A lack of space meant that Dr. Noah Nesin had to wait to see patients in examining rooms at his old office on Main Street in north Lincoln. When a room was finally free, Nesin often had to hurry because another physician was also waiting for the room.
If Nesin decided during the examination that a patient needed a referral to a specialist, it would often take a week to a month before the patient could book an appointment with the other doctor.
Problems such as that are why Nesin is pleased with the new, $5.4 million Health Access Network office at 175 West Broadway.
It’s not completely finished, but Nesin, the center’s medical director, and other practitioners said the 28,000-square-foot building, which opened on June 26 after a year of construction, is already expanding services and allowing them to see more patients more efficiently.
“It’s the most important health care change I have seen in 23 years of practicing here,” Nesin said Wednesday. “This creates an infrastructure to deliver primary care for generations, and it is a great recruiting tool.”
“It’s definitely an improvement,” said Kevin Olsen, a physician’s assistant who works at the center. “It has so much more space than we had, and it allows for a much better flow of work.”
“Patients don’t have to wait as much as they used to,” said Laura Whiting, a medical assistant.
The building allows Health Access to consolidate six Lincoln offices into one. It has 23 exam rooms — 10 more than HAN’s previous offices — for primary care, mental health, podiatry, OB-GYN specialties and administrative services.
When the building’s X-ray equipment and lab testing facilities are completely installed and the building is fully staffed, some patients will get all of their testing done and see referred specialists on the same day, said Dawn Cook, Health Access’ chief executive officer.
The new building will help Health Access add 12 new jobs, including three primary-care doctors and two mental health professionals, to its 100-worker payroll. Health Access officials hope the project will spur more additions to the Lincoln Lakes region’s medical community.
HAN’s satellite sites in Enfield, Medway and Millinocket are unchanged.
A federally funded community health center that handles 13,000 patients, or 50,000 visits, annually, Health Access will likely expand its primary care services, plus add some specialty providers, Cook said. The agency hopes to have a grant by September that will allow it to recruit a psychiatrist, which the Lincoln Lakes region lacks.
Health Access is also recruiting another female doctor who will handle women’s health and related issues, Cook said. Dr. Sarah Irving, a general practitioner and OB-GYN, is the sole female doctor with the agency. The agency will also begin working with medical schools to host interns and residents.
Originally budgeted at $4.8 million, the building’s construction endured some delays and some alterations. A $905,000 federal grant allowed Health Access officials to add radiology to the building’s design.
Eventually, Cook said, she would like to see the center expand its hours on weeknights and add Saturdays to its schedule and accept walk-ins. As many as 250 patients could be seen at the center daily, she said.