Officials tour facility in advance of opening

Posted June 21, 2010, at 2:17 p.m.

BREWER, Maine — Dodging hard-hatted workers and stepping carefully through unfinished patient care areas, officials on Monday toured the area’s newest health care center, a project of Bangor-based Penobscot Community Health Care.

The 28,000-square-foot Brewer Medical Center is on schedule to open Tuesday, June 29.

The center is on outer Wilson Street in the former Wilson Square Shopping Plaza near the intersection with I-395. The center can be reached using the BAT Community Connector bus service.

Mary Wakefield, administrator of the federal Health Resources and Services Administration, or HRSA, was among the guests touring the facility Monday. In addition U.S. Rep. Michael Michaud also was on hand, along with state Sen. Richard Rosen, R-Bucksport, and representatives from the offices of U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe.

“PCHC is a wonderful example of what HRSA’s health center program supports,” Wakefield said.

That initiative, she said, promotes the development of “medical homes” that deliver comprehensive clinical services including family health care, mental health counseling, on-site laboratory testing, and dental care — services that PCHC has been providing at various locations in the Bangor area since 1997.

Calling the expansive Brewer Medical Center a “beautiful facility,” Wakefield praised PCHC for its commitment to providing care to Mainers who are low-income, elderly, lacking health coverage, homeless or in other ways at risk of not having access to needed care.

New funding available through both the federal stimulus package and the recently enacted national health reform legislation will help construct more clinics like the Brewer Medical Center, Wakefield said, as well as provide incentives for doctors and other providers to locate in rural areas such as northern Maine.

Doctors and patients from two existing PCHC clinics, the Brewer Community Clinic in Brewer and Stillwater Family Medicine in Bangor, will relocate to the new health center when it opens next Tuesday. The geriatric specialty program now housed at PCHC’s Union Street campus also will move to the new Brewer site.

PCHC CEO Ken Schmidt said the organization will continue to offer dental care at its Union Street campus in Bangor and recently has expanded the number of dentists and dental interns available there. In addition, dental services will soon be available at the organization’s site at the former Helen Hunt School in Old Town.

Schmidt said PCHC is considering future expansion to communities that lack community health clinics.

Before and after the tour, Michaud arranged meetings with Wakefield and Maine health care providers so that they could have their concerns addressed and their questions answered about the implementation of the new health care reform law. The meetings were similar to meetings Michaud held in August 2009 with Maine health care providers, small businesses, and consumers, according to Michaud’s press secretary, Ed Gilman.

The visit came less than a week after the Brewer Health Center’s big glass windows facing Wilson Street were damaged by gunfire early Wednesday morning.

No one was injured, and the damaged windows have since been replaced. Schmidt said the incident appears to be a random act and is still under investigation.

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