Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, August 18, 2016
Island Medical Center marks 50 years
The Island Medical Center provides healthcare for the island community, as it has done for the last 50 years.
by Monique Labbe
“Community” was a constant theme among speakers during a sunny 50th anniversary celebration of the Island Medical Center on Sunday, August 14.
“The success of the medical center has been fulfilled by the community,” said Marty Snider, president of the board of trustees, during his opening remarks. “From the doctors to the donors to the guy who cuts the grass, this has become what it is because of all of you.”
The Island Medical Center building was created in 1966, when a group of citizens brought to life a vision of providing the island community with quality year-round healthcare. That vision was realized over the course of fundraising efforts and construction to build the medical center that operates today.
“Fifty years later, we now have a community-funded, debt-free medical center that provides physician and dentist care, counseling efforts and more,” said Snider.
The medical center building is leased, in part, to Blue Hill Memorial Hospital for the Island Family Medicine practice, a collaboration that past physician Tony Garland said has been “imperative” to the operation.
“We are so fortunate that we have the relationship with Blue Hill [Memorial Hospital], as we work in constant connection with them,” he said.
Garland and Joe Babbitt, both former physicians with Island Medical Center, spoke of their experiences working in a remote area of the state.
“It is difficult to summarize 24 years as a physician at this place,” said Garland. “But I think if I had to sum it up into one word, it would be ‘teamwork.’ Teamwork between Island Medical Center and hospitals in Blue Hill, Bangor, Portland, Boston. Teamwork between the staff here. That’s what this place is about, and continues to be about.”
Garland, who worked at the Island Medical Center from 1976 to 2000, added that the staff he worked with during his tenure at the medical center were “treasures.”
Babbitt told a story of the time he realized that the island community was “a special place in how it operates.”
“There was a woman who I was treating following a heart attack from Isle au Haut. I asked her if she thought living so remotely affected the kind of healthcare she received the night of the heart attack. She looked at me like I had three heads, so I rephrased the question, asking her if she thought the response time to getting the care she needed might have been quicker had she lived closer.”
The patient went on to tell Babbitt that when she had the heart attack, she called a neighbor, who brought over an oxygen tank, and from there was brought over to the mainland via lobster boat, brought to the medical center and then was treated in Bangor.
“I thought about that, after she had left. This community just accepts that it is remote, and the people here understand that the care they get is the very best care they can receive given their location. You can’t plan that type of care—the neighbor bringing the oxygen and then getting on a lobster boat. People just adapt, and as a physician, it’s important to understand the community in which you are working,” said Babbitt.
Island Dental Offices current provider Wendy Alpaugh and current Island Family Medicine physician Charles Zelnick talked about the present and future of the offices. Both providers echoed the sentiments of community support, as well as the “amazing staff” that has come through the doors of the medical center.
Charlie Osborn, treasurer of the board of trustees, discussed future projects that are in the works, including providing transportation to and from appointments for patients, continuing to attract the level of physicians that have been providing care at the medical center, and providing education in schools and to the community about the issues of drug abuse and addiction.
“Most of these projects are already started, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg,” said Osborn. “We are looking forward to continuing the positive relationship we have with this community.”
State Representative Walter Kumiega (D-Deer Isle) was in attendance during the anniversary celebration. He presented Snider with sentiments from the State House for the medical center’s 50 years of service to the community.