PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — On the heels of a decision to close a clinic The Aroostook Medical Center had opened inside the city’s Walmart store in 2009, TAMC has announced plans to expand access to health care at the hospital’s nearby walk-in clinic.
Hospital officials said Monday that the hours at TAMC’s Walk-In Care at North Street Healthcare will be expanded to assure the facility can better meet the needs of people who have minor illnesses and injuries.
On Friday, TAMC and Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems announced it would close five of its six clinics located inside Walmart stores throughout central, eastern and northern Maine. The list included the Presque Isle store.
Sylvia Getman, TAMC president and CEO, said the decision to close the clinic was made in part because the hospital found its customers preferred to use Walk-In Care at North Street Healthcare. The hospital opened that clinic just a few months before operation of the clinic at Walmart began.
She said the expanded hours at the North Street clinic will allow more people to be treated for illnesses and injuries such as colds, flu, scrapes, pinkeye, ear infections and other medical concerns. Presently, the facility is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday.
Starting this fall, Walk-In Care will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Outside the Walmart clinic in Presque Isle Monday afternoon, Julie Ouellette said she had not heard the news about the facility closing, but said she was “not surprised.”
“I shop here regularly, and I can’t remember ever seeing anyone waiting to use the clinic,” she said. “I always saw an employee there, but never a patient. At the same time, I don’t think that people were as aware of it as they necessarily should have been. When I heard people mention it, there were always questions about what sort of care they provided and whether insurance was accepted.”
Ouellette said she and other family members have used Walk-In Care at North Street Healthcare.
“To me, one walk-in clinic is all that a community of this size really needs,” she said. “It is associated with a hospital that everyone is familiar with, and it is in a good location and is much cheaper and faster than the emergency room.”
Christopher Morrison, a Mars Hill resident, agreed.
“I have heard a few people say that the clinic at Walmart is just not private enough for their comfort,” he said. “When I go to Walmart, I always see several people that I know. When you’re sick or injured, some people might not want to walk into a shopping center and have to answer questions from concerned friends or something when there is a more private facility just a short distance away.”
Getman acknowledged that the “extremely low volume” of traffic at the Walmart clinic was a reason for its closure.
No jobs will be lost because of the closure of the Walmart clinic, according to Getman, because those staffers already have accepted other positions at TAMC.