BREWER, Maine — Penobscot Community Health Care, a federally funded, Bangor-based organization with branches in Old Town, Brewer and other area communities, will open a new 28,000-square-foot medical center on Wilson Street in Brewer at the end of this month.
The expansive clinical center will be located in the former Wilson Square Shopping Plaza near the junction with I-95.
The Brewer Medical Center will be large enough to provide comprehensive primary care services for up to 22,000 adults and children as well as being open for unscheduled walk-in visits by patients of other practices or by those who do not have a regular doctor. It will be open seven days a week.
Included at the new medical center are 35 exam rooms, X-ray services, an on-site laboratory and a pharmacy. Mental health care, physical therapy and occupational therapy will be available at the center as well. PCHC’s geriatric specialty service, now housed at the organization’s Union Street campus in Bangor, also will relocate to Brewer.
Dental care, which is offered at the Union Street campus, will not be available at the Brewer Medical Center, but dental capacity at Union Street will be expanded soon, according to the Rev. Bob Carlson, president of PCHC.
Carlson said Thursday that the new medical center is needed to meet the growing regional demand for health care services. Patients from Holden, Eddington, Clifton and other communities on the eastern side of the Penobscot have limited access to care, he said.
“And if you come to PCHC and you don’t have a primary care physician and you want one, by the time you walk out, you’ll have one,” Carlson said.
The opening of the new clinic coincides with the closing of two other PCHC sites: the Brewer Community Clinic on South Main Street in Brewer and Stillwater Family Medicine in Bangor. About 65 clinical providers and other staff from those practices will relocate to the Brewer center over the last weekend in June. There are about 7,200 patients seen regularly at those practices who have been notified of the change.
In addition, the new health center will employ 16 new clinical and nonclinical staff.
The Brewer Medical Center will accept patients with or without insurance coverage, including private coverage, Medicare and MaineCare, the state’s Medicaid program. Patients with no health care coverage will be charged on an income-based sliding fee scale. PCHC is a designated Federally Qualified Health Center and receives enhanced Medicare and Medicaid payments in exchange for providing comprehensive care to a large percentage of low-income patients. Nationwide, Federally Qualified Health Centers also have been on the receiving end of federal stimulus funds and are recognized in the national health reform as key players in expanding access to affordable primary care.
On Thursday morning, the construction site was bustling with activity as workers laid flooring tiles, installed sinks, and hung acoustic ceiling panels in the renovated Wilson Square Shopping Plaza building. The project is on schedule to be completed by June 21, according to property owner and developer Tom Ellis of Bangor, who is also the general contractor on the job.
Construction, which started about 6 months ago, “has stayed right on time,” he said. The steel-and-block building has presented some challenges, Ellis said, but nothing unexpected.
“Basically, it was all gutted,” he said. New plumbing, wiring and other utilities have been installed throughout, and the front of the building has been bumped out 10 feet.
The interior, designed by Stockton Springs architect Judy Graber, is full of natural light and curving surfaces.
“Health care [settings] can be very institutional,” Ellis said. “We wanted something that is more fun, comfortable and relaxing for the folks who work here and the patients who visit.”
The new health center occupies most of the renovated building. Maine Military Supply, the only other tenant, has moved to the far end of the plaza. Other tenants, including 1st Choice Mortgage, Sun Tan City, Families United and the Bangor Brewer Athletic Club, have relocated.
The Brewer Medical Center will open for patient care on Tuesday, June 29. A grand opening celebration will be held this summer. “`