Memorial Hospital Cardiology Department Grows to Meet the Needs of Local Patients
It is no secret that accessing specialized medical care in rural areas can be a challenge. For years, residents of the North Conway Valley had to travel long distances to see a cardiologist. However, that is slowly changing with the expansion of Memorial Hospital’s cardiology department. The addition of Cardiologist Robert Bender, DO, to the team has significantly increased the department’s capacity to see new patients, providing much-needed relief to the local community.
Increasing Access for New Patients
Prior to the expansion, Memorial Hospital’s cardiology department consisted of one nurse practitioner and rotating cardiologists who were only available one to three days a month. This posed a significant barrier for new patients who were in need of specialized care. However, with the addition of Dr. Bender, the department now has a more consistent cardiologist presence. This increase in availability will enable the department to accommodate more patient visits, reducing the wait times for those in need of immediate cardiac care.
The expansion is particularly significant for newly referred patients. As nurse practitioner Sarah Petersen explains, “For those who are newly referred patients, they first see a cardiologist. We had a long list of new patient referrals. Having a more constant cardiologist presence will increase access for those patients.” This means that individuals who were previously forced to travel long distances for crucial cardiac consultations can now receive the care they need close to home.
Providing Continuity of Care
One of the key advantages of the expanded cardiology department at Memorial Hospital is the ability to provide continuity of care. Nurse practitioner Sarah Lacey explains, “For a patient to be seen by a nurse practitioner at Memorial, they must be seen by a cardiologist first.” This ensures that patients receive a thorough evaluation and appropriate treatment plan from the start.
Furthermore, the hospital follow-up appointments can be conveniently scheduled with a nurse practitioner, reducing the need for additional travel. “After a patient has been discharged from Maine Medical Center, the hospital follow up is an important appointment, but a lot of patients don’t realize it can happen right here in our local community with a nurse practitioner,” says Lacey. This convenience is especially valuable for older patients and individuals who may face barriers to accessing specialized care.
Addressing the Needs of the Community
The decision to expand the cardiology department was driven by the needs of the local community. Andrea Rathbone, Director of Practice Operations, explains, “Thinking about this Valley’s demographics, we have an older population of retirees here. It is helpful as you age to have specialists right at your fingertips and now, we have more access. For our younger population, as medicine progresses, we can identify conditions earlier, and we are here for them, too. If conditions are diagnosed earlier, there is a real opportunity there.”
The expansion of the cardiology department ensures that residents of the North Conway Valley can access high-quality cardiac care without the inconvenience of traveling long distances. As Dr. Bender points out, “In rural areas, there is still a significant percentage of patients who are reluctant to travel. Some can’t afford it; some need another person to drive them. It’s better for the patients to have a cardiologist come to them.” This patient-centered approach recognizes the unique challenges faced by rural communities and strives to provide equitable access to specialized medical care.
- Memorial Hospital established a cardiology department in 2020 with one nurse practitioner and rotating cardiologists.
- The department quickly grew to include two full-time nurse practitioners and now Dr. Bender.
- Prior to the expansion, 350 patients living within 50 miles of the hospital were seeing cardiologists in Scarborough, Maine.
The expansion of Memorial Hospital’s cardiology department is a significant step towards meeting the needs of local patients in the North Conway Valley. The addition of Cardiologist Robert Bender, DO, and increased availability of nurse practitioners will improve access to specialized cardiac care for those who previously had to travel long distances. This expansion not only provides convenience but also ensures continuity of care for patients, while addressing the unique challenges faced by rural communities.
Memorial Hospital’s commitment to expanding its cardiology department demonstrates a dedication to providing high-quality, patient-centered care to the local community. By bringing specialized cardiac services closer to home, residents of the North Conway Valley can now access the care they need without the burden of long-distance travel. The growth of the department, combined with a focus on continuity of care, ensures that patients receive comprehensive and timely treatment. As rural healthcare continues to face challenges, Memorial Hospital’s expansion serves as a beacon of hope for improved access to specialized care.