Grassroots Effort Launches to ‘Save Northern Maine Medical Center’

Published: May. 24, 2023 at 7:18 PM EDT
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FORT KENT, Maine (WAGM) -It was Standing Room Only at the Fort Kent Town Hall LAST NIGHT as around 100 people gathered with the goal of saving services at Northern Maine Medical Center. Newssource 8′s Corey Bouchard attended the more than two hour long meeting and spoke with event organizers as well as hospital administration.

Toby Jandreau, a member of the recently started group ‘Save NMMC’ said in the meeting " It’s not fair, the community wants to know, the community is very concerned” )

Save NMMC was formed in early May due to several key issues, including staffing.

Jandreau adds” There have been resignations, we have reports of people being told they had to leave, we have reports of people being fired, and we have reports of people leaving under threat of duress”

Jandreau says the group believes 15 health care providers have left the hospital since CEO Jeff Zewe was hired. The group held a public meeting Tuesday evening to express their concerns about staffing and other issues, including the NMMC boards recent announcement the OBGYN department would be closing at the end of May. Around 14 people spoke at the meeting, including Christine Desjardins, who was a Nurse Manager for the OB Unit until she recently left for her own well being.

DESJARDINS says " With that being said, I am standing here right now to whole hardedly tell you that our new CEO had every intention of closing our OB from the very beginning”

Desjardins claims that attempts to hire or train nurses for the department were intentionally stopped by administrators who either did not follow up with qualified candidates, or didn’t allow for nurses to cross train with the OB Department. Jandreau says the closing of the OB Department and resignations of Health Care Providers is similar to how events unfolded at the previous hospital that Zewe was the CEO for; Bradford Regional Medical Center, a hospital in rural pennsylvania, near Buffalo, New York.

“ we found a community group called Save Bradford Hospital.” Jandreau says ”we connected with that group and they explained to us what happened to their hospital how iniially they lost primary care and then they lost OB and they lost all these peices until the hospital was a shell of what it used to be "

Of the 14 people who spoke, the majority were speaking against the decisions of the administration. One person who said they understand the hospital had difficult decisions to make was Charles Ouellette, the owner of the St.John Valley Pharmacy in Fort Kent

CHARLES OUELLLETTE " I know a lot of the things being done are not popular, and rarely is having to cut any kind of services popular, im not saying any of this is a good idea, i understand that but I think what we need to do here is actually address board members directly”

Zewe was not able to attend the meeting, but several board members and the Chief Operating Officer, Alain Bois did attend. They were asked not to speak at the meeting, but they did speak with us afterwards, responding to what was said.

Alain Bois " I think the first thing that is great to see is the alignment between the leadership and the community members wanting Northern Maine Medical Center to survive and stay viable for years to come, I think that unifies us on the one main mission and focus we want to have. I think hearing the comments from the public was important for us so thats why you saw such a good attendance to the meeting and we will hopefully be able to share some of the factual information and correct some of the information that has been presented in order for the public to be better informed and feel we are transparent”

Increased Transparency is what Jandreau and the members of ‘Save NMMC’ are calling for. In the Meeting, the group outlined a number of recommendations to the Board of Trustees including: Meeting with group organizers, releasing financial information about the hospital, pausing any major changes to the hospital, and opening up the board meetings to the public. John Ezzy, one of the board members defended the board and administrations actions citing a nationwide personnell shortage and the hospitals current financial situation.

John Ezzy " The situation with personnel is nationwide, it’s not just here and its not because of our administration, the administration is trying to keep the hospital together and they are doing in my opinion a decent job with it”

After the meeting there was a petition for those attending the meeting to sign outlining the requests to the board. There were also lawn signs that read Save NMMC available for people to take with them.