Partnering to Bring 24/7 Healthcare Access to Jackman, ME

Limited access to healthcare is a problem that hits closer to home than you may realize. Some fellow Mainers, especially in rural areas, face the challenge of finding 24/7 emergency care. With a little ingenuity, dedication, and collaboration, we’re turning the accessibility tides for the residents of Jackman, ME. Eastern Maine Community College, St. Joseph Healthcare, and Jackman Community Health Center have partnered to make this possible.

Dr. Jonnathan Busko was, and continues to be, instrumental in this effort. He shared more on this exciting advancement in paramedicine:

“Rural communities are losing access to emergency and urgent care services at an alarming rate with a record number of rural hospitals closing in 2019 even before Covid 19. When communities lose healthcare access, residents are more likely to die of things they would have survived and communities themselves are more likely to fall apart.”

In Jackman, it was apparent something had to be done, those involved just needed to fine tune the “how.” The answer became physician extenders. In other words, with special training and the help of technology, local paramedics will become the hands to implement treatment and/or prepare patients for transport to the hospital, while physicians at St. Joseph Healthcare provide the knowledge and expertise to direct treatment.

“The Alaska Community Health Aide program has shown that using trained physician extenders and supporting them with physician telemedicine services can make communities healthier and more stable and I believe that this program will do the same.”

This exciting program leverages the benefits of telemedicine while combatting the constraints. “Telemedicine has two major limitations: you can’t do a detailed physical exam and you can’t perform any procedures. By using physician extenders at the patient end of the visit, you eliminate those two barriers to great in-place care.”

“When I talk about this project, I remind myself that all the moving parts that are so clear to me may seem overwhelming to others. I started thinking about a project like this 23 years ago as part of my Master’s in Public Health so I’ve had some time to get used to the scope of this idea. This project could transform the way that communities that are health care access deserts can receive care, not just in Jackman, ME, but in the thousands of Jackmans throughout the US and around the world.” And we hope it does!

This project has been a long time in the making, but well worth the effort for those involved and impacted. “Working on this project and seeing it coming to fruition has been the most fulfilling thing I’ve done in my career.  The support I’ve had from the leaders at St. Joe’s throughout this process has been amazing and I’m so grateful to have this opportunity.”

A huge kudos goes to Dr. Busko, St. Joe’s Emergency Department, and all those who played a part in bringing 24/7 healthcare access to rural Jackman, ME.