Staff shortage forces Peaks Island clinic to reduce hours by two-thirds

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The Peaks Island Health Center will only be open one day a week for the foreseeable future because of a shortage of administrative staff.

PIHC is part of Maine Medical Partners’ Portland Family Health practice at 272 Congress St., which has eight vacancies, or 80 percent of its administrative employees. Staff typically rotate in and out of PIHC.

Peaks Island Health Center
Peaks Island Health Center, at 87 Central Ave., is now open just one a day week. (Courtesy MaineHealth)

As a result of the shortage, however, PIHC is now open only on Wednesdays, rather than its former Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule.

Lee Averill, associate vice president of primary care operations at MaineHealth, the parent of Maine Medical Partners, said Portland Family Health is prioritizing access to care for Peaks Island residents. She said islanders seeking care at on Mondays or Fridays would have a provider available.

MaineHealth is also ensuring that the provider at Peaks Island on Wednesdays maintains home visits to patients who can’t easily leave the island.

The PIHC situation is a flashpoint, Averill acknowledged, but isn’t unique in the health care sector.

At the same time that health care providers are experiencing staff shortages, she said, they’re also seeing an influx of people in need of care, some with an increased level of need.

Lee Averill
Lee Averill, associate vice president of primary care operations at MaineHealth, said she sees no end to staff shortages in the near future. (Courtesy MaineHealth)

Averill said she didn’t want to speculate about how long it would take to fill the open positions, considering how challenging it has been to hire. She said the practice has more open positions than applicants.

PIHC board member Geoff Phillips McEnany said a meeting last week between directors and Averill went “exceptionally well,” and he’s encouraged about potential solutions that have been proposed.

One of those is a plan to hire administrative staff solely responsible for PIHC, a position that he said is already in the interview process. For the time being, the plan is to maintain the Wednesday-only schedule, from 8:30 a.m.-3 p.m.

The board is expected to meet again with MaineHealth officials this week to discuss an additional position solely for PIHC, McEnany said.