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Penobscot Community Health Care temporarily suspends its weekend walk-in services

The PCHC clinic located at 1012 Union St. in Bangor will not accept any walk-in patients at all throughout the week or on the weekends.

BANGOR, Maine — Penobscot Community Health Care (PCHC) notified its patients in August that all five of its walk-in health care locations would temporarily cut weekend walk-in services starting in September due to staffing issues. 

In addition to suspending weekend walk-in services at all five locations, PCHC said walk-in services would no longer be offered at its center located at 1012 Union St. in Bangor until staffing issues are resolved. 

"We needed to contract our services temporarily to respond to some shortages in both providers and other care team members while we staff back up," PCHC President and CEO Lori Dwyer said.

The health care workforce continues to face hard-hitting staffing challenges across the country. Dwyer said her staff members are stretched thin, and many health care providers are either leaving the profession altogether or weighing their options and taking other job opportunities. 

Her officers are down about four health care providers, she said. Dwyer added that one to two health care providers per health center are scheduled for any given walk-in shift, and patients spend more time waiting to be seen with fewer providers working. 

Dwyer's staff usually works three 12-hour shifts throughout the week, and they all work together to fill in the gaps. Patients are already feeling the effects of walk-in service hours being cut. 

"Not having that option will be difficult, especially during the day, especially for children when you might have an issue come up that can't wait two weeks," a patient entering the health center said.

Dwyer said staffing has been a struggle for a year now, and when two employees resigned, she knew hours would need to be adjusted to offer her providers some relief. 

According to Dwyer, PCHC offers competitive pay, and a lack of money has nothing to do with the staffing challenges her facilities face.

"Once you have sufficient financial security, there are so many other components of your work life that are as or more important to you," Dwyer said. 

Several other obstacles stand in the way of getting health care providers to say yes to working in central and northern Maine, Dwyer said, with one of them being the housing shortage. 

"A real impediment to recruitment and retention in this area is housing," Dwyer said. "It is very challenging for our workforce to find affordable housing options."

Rural areas like greater Bangor are also left to compete with more scenic metropolitan areas like Portland and bigger cities across the country that have more than just a nice salary to offer, Dwyer said. 

"Getting people more towards central and northern Maine is that much more challenging—and it really requires a more intentional outreach to people who grew up in rural places, who have connections to rural places and want to go back there and stay there," Dwyer said. 

PCHC said it hopes to resume its regular walk-in services by the end of December. Until then, other local health care offices in the greater Bangor area, like Northern Light and Convenient MD, offer walk-in services for patients. 

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