Elise O'Neill, nurse director of the Mount Desert Nursing Association, which plans to expand services to all of Mount Desert Island, to Swans Island and to the Cranberry Isles. ISLANDER FILE PHOTO

Nursing service goes islandwide



MOUNT DESERT — The Mount Desert Nursing Association (MDNA) is extending its home care and community health services to all of Mount Desert Island as well as to Swans Island and the Cranberry Isles.

The MDNA has served year-round and summer residents of Mount Desert since 1949.

“The demand for what we offer is islandwide,” said Rick Fuerst, president of the MDNA board.

“We’ve always had the conundrum where somebody on the other side of the town line needs our services, but we were only serving the town of Mount Desert. It just makes sense to serve the whole island and not have to be discriminating about where the town boundaries are.”

The MDNA, the only local, independent home health agency, provides in-home skilled nursing, physical therapy and occupational therapy services as well as office services. Nurses provide medication management and coordinate with other health care providers.

Community services include blood pressure clinics, flu vaccine clinics and diabetes screening and prevention programs. The organization also lends out durable medical equipment such as crutches, walkers and shower chairs. The “loan closet” has been available to all MDI residents for several years.

The MDNA charges for its patient care services, but no one is denied service because of an inability to pay. The organization depends on donations and grants to help make ends meet. And in each of the past several years, the town of Mount Desert has given the MDNA $29,000.

Now that it is expanding its service area, Fuerst said the other towns on the island will be asked to contribute, as well.

The MDNA also is in the process of applying for Medicare accreditation, which would enable it, for the first time, to accept insurance.

“Once you get Medicare accreditation, then all the other insurances fall into line because they follow Medicare,” said MDNA Nurse Director Elise O’Neil, a registered nurse.

Meeting the eligibility requirements for accreditation is a long, complicated process she said.

“We’ve been at it for about six months, and we hope to have accreditation by the end of this year. We have people volunteering to help us get procedures and policies in place because everything has to be written to a T. It’s a challenge.”

O’Neil said one requirement is that the organization must begin serving Medicare-eligible patients on a trial basis – without reimbursement – to prove that it can do the job and meet all federal standards.

“You have to have admitted 10 patients to service in order for the government to come in and survey you,” O’Neill said. “We started seeing Medicare patients in June on top of all of our regular patients and all the summer people coming in.”

O’Neil worked for 10 years as a care manager with Mount Desert Island Hospital.

She said that when she came into the nurse director’s job at MDNA in December, the staff consisted of an office manager and two part-time nurses, one of whom was leaving.

“Since then, we have added five RNs and four physical therapists, and we have an occupational therapist coming in,” she said. “We have one CNA [certified nursing assistant] and another one coming on board. We’re establishing a really great team.”

Many of the patients that MDNA nurses see are elderly, and O’Neil said one of the organization’s primary goals is to help them stay in their homes, if that is what they wish.

“Sometimes you have to reassure people that we are not the nursing home police; we’re not there to take you out of your home,” she said. “We are there to help you stay at home and maybe bring in some services to help you.”

Fuerst said that is important to a lot of people, which is why the MDNA has received such generous support over the years.

“I figure if you live here long enough, you or a close relative will use our services,” he said.

On Aug. 1, the MDNA marked a milestone in the extension of its service area. Registered Nurse Leslie Watson visited the organization’s first patient on Great Cranberry Island.

“There is such a barrier to care for people on the outer islands,” O’Neil said. “It’s expensive; it’s time consuming. So, I think we can really help people out there.”

Of the patient that Watson saw Monday, O’Neil said, “The community is invested in this elder, and this elder wants to stay home.”