Nurses Call on Maine Legislature to Protect Healthcare for Rural Maine Patients

Members of the Maine State Nurses Association/National Nurses United (MSNA/NNU) held a press conference Thursday, October 19, to speak out in strong support of a bill to protect healthcare for patients in rural Maine. They called on legislators to take up a critical bill, “An Act to Protect Rural Maine Healthcare,” in the Maine legislature’s upcoming emergency session.

“Our rural healthcare system is a lifeline to much of our population. When a hospital closes down some or all of its services, the effect on rural communities is devastating,” said MSNA President Cokie Giles.

The bill requires that a healthcare facility considering the elimination of one or more major service line must 1) do an impact study (which must be made public) on the effect the proposed closure(s) will have on the affected community and 2) hold public hearings to get local input from on the decision to make the closure(s).

Nurses were joined on Thursday by the bill’s sponsor, Representative Stephen Stanley (D-Medway), as well as by Maine House Assistant Majority Leader Jared Golden (D-Lewiston).

“Coming from Millinocket, I know a thing or two about what happens in our towns when a major institution down-sizes or closes altogether. It affects the whole community,” said Representative Stanley.  

“The Board of Directors of our Hospital told us they did not want any input from our community about their decision to close down this department that is essential to women’s health,” said Maureen Hayward, RN, Chief Steward of the MSNA Chapter in Calais, Maine, where the local hospital recently closed its Obstetrics (OB) Department, leaving women within a forty-mile radius of Calais without local access to critical OB and pre-natal services.

“No one knows what the impact of this decision will be,” said Hayward. “If this bill becomes law in the state of Maine, it will protect other towns like Calais from going through what we’re going through right now.”

“Representative Stanley and I are proud to stand with nurses who are on the front-lines of our rural healthcare system in Maine,” said Assistant Majority Leader Golden. “We hope that our colleagues on both sides of the aisle will join us to protect the rural communities in which so many of us grew up and care for so deeply. The time is now to make this important bill a law.”