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Central Maine Healthcare will begin sending cardiac physicians to rural Maine next month to treat patients at their own doctors’ offices.

The Lewiston-based hospital group said cardiologists from its Central Maine Heart and Vascular Institute will make the half-hour drive to the DFD Russell Medical Center in Leeds to save patients travel time. It should also ease worry from patients about driving to a much larger city and the higher cost of procedures in a hospital.

Central Maine Healthcare and DFD Russell announced the arrangement on Tuesday.

“In our rural state, with our aging population, it makes sense to bring that care closer to Mainers,” said Dr. Andrew Eisenhauer, medical director of the heart and vascular institute.

Laurie Kane-Lewis, CEO of DFD Russell, said about 80 percent of the patients who travel from Leeds to Lewiston for cardiac testing, or some 500 patients per year, can now be seen in Leeds.

About half of those are low-income patients who qualify for reduced costs.

Diagnostic services initially will include electrocardiograms, echocardiograms and stress tests. The doctors initially will see patients once a month, but later expand the schedule as needed. Patients needing more complex care will be transferred to Central Maine Heart and Vascular Institute.

All appointments and billing will be handled directly through DFD Russell, allowing patients to schedule and manage their cardiovascular services where they receive their primary care, Kane-Lewis said.

About 4.7 percent of adult Mainers have reported that a health professional told them they have chest pain or coronary artery disease, according to America’s Health Rankings, a health data company. That compares to 3.9 percent nationally.

The alliance is part of Central Maine Healthcare’s strategy to expand in rural Maine. The hospital system also has plans to upgrade two of its more rural hospitals over the next several years with an update to the Rumford Hospital emergency room and a possible new medical office building at Bridgton Hospital.

Central Maine Healthcare also oversees Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston, where it has been upgrading equipment and buildings for the past several years. It also plans to open an urgent care facility in Lewiston in early 2020.

DFD Russell was formed In 1975 by concerned residents of Leeds and the six surrounding towns following the death of the area’s only physician, Dr. Daniel Davis Russell. It opened in 1979 and is a nonprofit, federally qualified health center.