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September 18, 2017 From the Editor

Maine health care's daunting challenge

Maine's rural areas face a number of challenges, ranging from a shrinking (and aging) workforce to a lack of reliable internet.

But, as our health care focus in this issue points out, the challenges faced by rural hospitals are growing ever more daunting. In Washington County, Calais Regional closed its obstetrics unit in August. It is just one hospital that has had to adjust to dwindling patient numbers and rising costs. Blue Hill Memorial Hospital in 2009 and Penobscot Valley Hospital in Lincoln have each closed obstetrics units in recent years. Emergency care is also being phased out.

As Senior Writer Laurie Schreiber reports, experts say things could worsen. Financial stress, combined with the difficulty of recruiting doctors, are growing burdens for rural hospitals. Along with shrinking school systems, regions are fighting to remain viable in recruiting younger residents.

“When you've got a community that no longer has the ability to deliver babies, what does that say to people, who are considering moving there, about the health of that community? I think it will have a chilling effect on the ability to market that region, particularly to families of childbearing age,” Shawn Yardley, a Washington County native and CEO of Community Concepts in Lewiston, tells Laurie.

It's not just rural areas in Maine that are affected.

As Senior Writer Renee Cordes reports, the Association of American Medical Colleges projects a shortage of between 40,800 and 104,900 doctors nationwide by 2030.

Still, as correspondent Maureen Milliken reports, hospitals are quickly adapting by collaborating with one another. As M. Michelle Hood, president and CEO of Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems, tells her, “We're going to be in a period of tremendous change for the foreseeable future,” Hood says.

Floods, fires and earthquakes

Watching Harvey and Irma devastate huge swaths of the South (not to mention forest fires out west or earthquakes in Mexico) gives us reasons to be grateful we're in Maine. It's not that we aren't prone to major snowstorms and ice storms, but we can be thankful, certainly, for being spared nature's worst wrath.

Heard on Main Street

Hussey Seating Co., a family owned business in North Berwick, replaced the wooden bleachers at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Ind., with its Perma-Plank bench seating and Perma-Cap bleacher covers. It completed the upper bowl during the first stages of the renovations in 2016 and finished the lower bowl in August 2017. Hussey Seating, which had sales of $100 million last year, mostly in providing telescopic gym seating for schools, had other highprofile recent jobs, installing seats for the Tennessee Titans and Nashville Predators.

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