LEWISTON — Central Maine Medical Center says it will close its acute-care clinic at the beginning of the year.
The 76 High Street clinic provides emergency care for minor illnesses and injuries, and primary care for adults and children. It is staffed by one doctor, Shannon Deschenes.
The clinic has been open for several years, CMMC spokesman Chuck Gill said. He did not know how many patients it serves.
Gill said the clinic typically sees patients who can't get immediate appointments with their doctors but whose illnesses or injuries are not severe enough to require a trip to the hospital emergency room. He said Deschenes ran her practice through the clinic and maintained patients of her own.
Deschenes will not stay with the hospital group after the clinic's closure on Jan. 7. She could not be reached for comment.
Gill said Central Maine Healthcare has added more primary care doctors and that patients are going to the doctor less often. Because of that, the hospital group believes its primary care practices can see people more quickly than they could years ago. Patients also still have the option of going to the emergency room.
Patients recently received letters notifying them of the closure. Gill said the hospital group is working on shifting Deschenes' patients to other Central Maine Healthcare doctors.
Some patients, however, have balked at the closure and the move to another doctor.
"I'm pissed, to be quite honest," Ginger Pearl said.
Pearl, her husband and teenage daughter began seeing Deschenes several years ago when the doctor practiced in their hometown of Mechanic Falls, and they stayed with her when she moved to the acute-care clinic in Lewiston. Pearl and her husband have chronic health issues. They trust Deschenes and her medical advice.
"She is so intent on knowing everything and spending enough time with her patients," Pearl said.
When she received a letter this week advising her of the clinic's closure, she cried.
"It threw me for a total loop," she said. "There was no warning. Thirty days? That's ridiculous."
She and her family are working on their own to find another doctor willing and able to learn their lengthy, detailed medical histories. Pearl is not happy with the hospital group responsible for the clinic's closure.
"I think it should be patients over profits," she said.
But Gill said the closure will make the hospital group more efficient because it won't duplicate services by seeing patients at both primary care practices and the acute-care clinic.
"We're doing exactly what we're being asked to do," Gill said. "Health care's being asked to be more efficient all the time."
Gill said he did not know how much money the hospital group will save by closing the clinic.
According to the Maine Hospital Association, acute care and similar walk-in clinics are growing in Maine as hospitals try to get patients to stop using expensive emergency rooms for minor illnesses and injuries.
St. Mary's opened its convenient-care clinic about a year ago at 15 Gracelawn Road. Staffed by two nurse practitioners and a physician assistant, that clinic is open mornings, evenings, weekends and holidays to give patients an option outside the emergency room.
Editor's note: The acute-care clinic at 76 High Street is different than the Central Maine Family Practice Residency Program at the same address. Although the residency program does offer same day appointments like the acute-care clinic, the residency program is not closing.