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February 24, 2020

King gets sneak peek at CMH Lewiston urgent care site

Photo / Leslie McAllister, Central Maine Healthcare U.S. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, center, and Jeff Brickman, CEO of Central Maine Healthcare, right, talk to David Bateman, of Bateman Partners LLC, at CMH's under-construction urgent care clinic at 685 Sabattus St., Lewiston. King visited the site Friday. Bateman Partners is the contractor.

The ribbon-cutting at Central Maine Healtcare's Maine Urgent Care site in Lewiston isn't until next month, but U.S. Sen. Angus King, I- Maine, who has made health care a priority, got a sneak peek at the Sabattus Street building last week.

The center is intended to improve access while keeping costs down for patients by providing medical services outside of an emergency room setting. The site is the second, but probably not the last, of the Lewiston-based health care system's planned urgent care centers.

King toured the under-construction building after he was told about it by Ben Tucker, one of his representatives, who attended a legislative breakfast held there last month. 

“Community well-being depends on reliable access to health care, and one of the best ways that we can improve public health is by preventing conditions before they get too serious," King told Mainebiz. "It was an excellent day to meet with health care advocates, innovators and professionals to hear what’s working and what isn’t. I look forward to taking those sentiments back to Washington as I continue to fight for proactive healthcare policy.”

Access, lower costs

On the tour, Jeff Brickman, CEO of Central Maine Healthcare, told King the model is something that's being done across the country and comes from identifying the needs of the community. The urgent care centers "are focused on what the community said they wanted."

Brickman said the Central Maine Medical Center emergency room in Lewiston sees more "low-acuity patients" — those not needing a high intensity of care — than it needs to, which drives up costs for the hospital and for patients. The increased access and lower cost is also expected to prompt patients to get care earlier, when treatments are less invasive and expensive.

King said that access to care, particularly in the state's rural areas, is a concern. "In eight of our 16 counties, the hospital is the largest employer."

"It still can be," Brickman replied, but the focus can shift away from emergency room and hospital procedures.

King said that ways to incentivize innovation on health care, particularly in rural areas, and make it lest costly for patients while helping them avoid expensive procedures, are "exactly what I'm looking for."

The center will open by the end of March and a ribbon-cutting is planned for Thursday, March 19. The first CMH urgent care center opened in Topsham in September 2018, and sees 25 to 30 patients a day, according to CMH.

The urgent care center will offer diagnosis and treatment of minor illnesses, minor injury repair and treatment, some imaging services, labs and diagnostics, and sports physicals. Patients will be able to reserve a spot online, as well as see wait times. 

CMH is also expanding its occupational health capacity and plans to partner with local employers. "We're working with businesses on what services they need," said Melissa Caccamo, CMH's system director of ambulatory and retail services. She said that includes things like pre-employment physicals, injury management and more.

The clinic plans to employ about 20 people.

Bateman Partners partnership

Bateman Partners LLC is the developer on the two-story building, which has taken the place of an office building that was previously on the site. CMH will lease the space from Bateman.

Bateman Partners was also the developer on the Topsham Care Center and is developing CMH's cancer center on its Lewiston campus downtown.

David Bateman, of Bateman Partners, was also on Thursday's tour. He told King his company and CMH, which "thinks out of the box," have formed a strong partnership.

The fact that Bateman Partners owns the building allows CMH to focus on the health care end of things, rather than the bricks and mortar, he and Brickman said.

Brickman said more centers are planned, but details, including locations, have not been released.

Health care priority for King

KIng has made health care one of his priorities. He said on Thursday's tour that health care in Maine represents 20% of the GDP, up from 12% when he was governor 20 years ago.

His focuses include advocating for the advantages and financial benefits of proactive and preventive health care, which fits in with CMH's model.

He cited some examples of his work.

  • He recently introduced the Preventive Home Visits Act, which would provide Medicare coverage for qualified care providers to assess the safety of seniors’ homes.
  • He also introduced the Wellness and Education for Longer Lives for Seniors Act, which would improve Medicare’s Annual Wellness Visit to encourage seniors and their physicians to work together and confront health issues before they become more serious, according to his staff.
  • In November, he introduced the Primary Care Patient Protection Act, which would allow consumers enrolled in high-deductible health plans to be covered for two yearly visits to primary care physicians.
  • Last May, he introduced the Preventive Health Savings Act, which would direct the Congressional Budget Office to more accurately reflect the cost-savings of preventive health care, including health screenings.
  • In October, he hosted a prevention-focused panel discussion in Bangor with local health care providers and public wellness experts on the best ways to use prevention strategies to improve health outcomes and reduce costs. 

At the end of the hour-long tour, he told Brickman, "I'll come back again when this is done."

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