June 23, 2018
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Blue Hill hospital to discuss concerns with Stonington branch at community meeting

By Mario Moretto, BDN Staff

STONINGTON, Maine — Island residents will hear what Blue Hill Memorial Hospital has to say about local concerns with its Stonington branch at a community meeting scheduled for Dec. 5.

The hospital held a series of “focus groups” in May to listen to what Deer Isle and Stonington residents had to say about Island Family Medicine, the hospital’s primary care clinic in Stonington, according to hospital spokeswoman Kelley Columber.

At 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 5, the hospital will hold a meeting to review the results of the focus groups and give an outline of how the hospital plans to address patient concerns. The meeting will be held at the Reach Performing Arts Center at Deer Isle-Stonington High School.

Blue Hill Memorial Hospital leases the space for the clinic from Island Medical Center. Columber said the focus groups were the hospital’s response to complaints heard by directors on the Island Medical Center board.

“The board [members] had come to [the hospital] and expressed that they were hearing concerns from the community about access,” Columber said.

Columber declined to discuss details about residents’ concerns, or about how the hospital will address them, before the meeting.

One Deer Isle resident who participated in the focus groups said he was surprised when his wife was turned away from Island Family Medicine when she needed stitches. He said it’s part of a general criticism that Island Family Medicine is inflexible with scheduling.

“They’re not structured to accept appointments ahead of time,” the man said. He asked not to be named for fear of alienating acquaintances at IFM. “You have to call the morning you want something. People complained they had to have the clinic on speed dial to get an appointment.”

Blue Hill Memorial Hospital has been engaging in a series of goodwill events with the community, including a public meeting in September to quell the furor from some in Blue Hill upset by the hospital’s recent purchase of nearby residential properties.

At that meeting, Chief Medical Officer Cathy Ober acknowledged that the hospital has only a 50 percent market share on the Blue Hill Peninsula, meaning about half of peninsula residents choose other medical facilities.

“We know from perception studies that a good majority of people on the peninsula, year-round and summer residents, have a lower opinion of BHMH than they did 10 years ago,” she said.

Columber said the concerns raised in the focus groups were not unique to the Island clinic, but said Blue Hill Memorial Hospital is committed to addressing patient concerns.

“The hospital looks forward to announcing the many plans for improved services at Island Family Medicine, and throughout our organization, for this community,” she wrote in a news release.

Follow Mario Moretto on Twitter at @riocarmine.

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