Mayo Regional Hospital in Dover-Foxcroft. Mayo Regional Hospital announced that its primary care office in Guilford will close on April 5. Credit: Stuart Hedstrom | Piscataquis Observer

Citing difficulty in attracting and retaining physicians, Mayo Regional Hospital announced the closure of its primary care office in Guilford. The official closure date for Guilford Medical Associates, which is housed via lease from the town at the C.H. Lightbody Medical Center on Park Street, will be April 5.

The practice has experienced significant provider turnover in the past year and a half, which officials say led to the closure. Dr. Bernard Perlman was most recently practicing at Guilford Medical Associates for about six months and recently gave his notice.

“This is a decision that was difficult to make, but we must deal with the reality of being a small, rural hospital in a time where hospital systems are becoming more necessary for sustainability,” said Marie Vienneau, president and CEO of Mayo Regional Hospital. “Staffing challenges have led to financial losses for Guilford Medical Associates that the hospital is unable to absorb. This is an unfortunate reality. However, we are confident in our mission to provide high quality care for people in this region, and staying focused on making Mayo Regional Hospital a resource for many years to come.”

Guilford Town Manager Tom Goulette said the closing of Guilford Medical Associates did not come as a complete surprise to the community.

“We have known since the beginning of the affiliation plans (Mayo Regional Hospital is looking at a potential merger with Northern Light Health) that the days of the clinic were numbered,” Goulette said in an email. “If they affiliate as planned, they will be part of the same system that C.A. Dean belongs to and at that point, it would only make sense to operate out of the newer facility a half mile down the road in Sangerville. That place offers X-rays, labs, and other services.”

Provider recruitment has become a bigger challenge for the hospital over the past 15 years, as physician and non-physician provider demand increases regionally and nationally.

“It has been a real struggle for Mayo to maintain physicians at the Guilford locale to the point that they are using locums,” Goulette said. “I don’t know that it’s any easier a half mile down the road either! Another factor in the decision to close, I’m sure, is that their lease expires in April. It has always been renewed in 10-year increments, and although we would have agreed to a shorter term given what is developing, they chose to make the break now rather than later.”

Mayo Regional Hospital is leasing the space from the town of Guilford for $1,805 per month.

Staff at the clinic are expected to be reassigned to other Mayo Regional Hospital practices across the region. A temporary provider, Dr. Jane Park, will be seeing patients at Guilford Medical Associates until April. All patients are encouraged to make arrangements to transfer their care to another provider as soon as possible. The hospital has openings in its clinics in Milo, Dexter and Corinth and limited availability in Dover-Foxcroft. Northern Light CA Dean and Hometown Health also offer primary care in the area.

“As to the effect on the town, I can’t say it will be devastating or that the sky is falling in since there will be health care close by, but it does come at a bad time along with KeyBank’s announcement (according to news reports the financial institution will be one of four branches across Maine shuttering in the spring) and Subway and Shiretown Pizza closings,” Goulette said. “We now have a beautiful, recently remodeled building available for lease, so hopefully we can find another tenant. I am exploring one possibility at the moment and will remain open to any others going forward.”

“Mayo needs to do whatever they can to stay solvent; the alternative would be primary and emergency health care in Bangor and that would indeed be devastating,” the town manager said. “I anticipate we will survive this.”

This was originally published in the Piscataquis Observer.