Executive Director Heather Lewis describes the Mount Desert Nursing Association as a “full spectrum” home health care provider whose goal is “to keep [patients] aging in their home for as long and as comfortably as possible.” The association serves all of Mount Desert Island, as well as Swans Island and the Cranberry Isles. ISLANDER PHOTO BY BECKY PRITCHARD

Mount Desert Nursing Assn.: Caring for MDI for 70 years

NORTHEAST HARBOR — The Mount Desert Nursing Association (MDNA) turns 70 this summer. Yet with a new director, new Medicare accreditation and newly expanded service area, this private nonprofit home health care agency is just getting started.

“We’re looking to take more patients on. We’re always taking referrals,” said Executive Director Heather Lewis. She described MDNA as a “full spectrum” home health care provider.

“We are here to take care of our island,” Lewis said. “We see the island as one community; not separate towns.”

Founded originally to serve the town of Mount Desert, the association expanded in 2017 to serve all of Mount Desert Island as well as Swan’s Island and the Cranberry Isles. The same year, the association met eligibility requirements for Medicare, which allowed it to accept that and other insurance.

“Once you get Medicare accreditation, then all the other insurances fall into line because they follow Medicare,” MDNA Nurse Director Elise O’Neil said in 2017.

The purpose of MDNA, Lewis said, is “to keep [patients] aging in their home for as long and as comfortably as possible.”

They do this by offering a home health aide services including bathing, dressing, and light housekeeping. Visiting nurses provide chronic and preventative disease management, medication management, blood testing and other in-home services. Physical and occupational therapists work with patients recovering from surgery in their homes.

Trips by staff to the outer islands are patient-dependent, rather than set days or hours. “The challenge with outer islands is the ferry service,” Lewis said. “It’s restricted in winter.”

In addition to home health services, MDNA operates a medical equipment lending program. Used medical equipment is donated, cleaned up by volunteers, and lent out again. The lending program is open to anyone in the service area. Before spending money on new medical equipment, Lewis said, “we always say to call. You never know what different equipment we might have.”

The Mount Desert Nursing Association was formed to provide public health services to continue the work of a local Red Cross chapter that had been on the same site since 1931. “We’re in a Red Cross building,” Lewis said. “It was gifted to the nursing association for as long as they are in existence.” This happened when the Red Cross shifted its focus from public health to disaster relief.

The public health services also included school health care until schools started hiring nurses in the 1980s and ’90s, according to the association’s website. After that, the focus switched to in-home health care.

Though the association accepts Medicare and other insurance now, donations are still the primary source of funding. “We’d like to be able to sustain ourselves, become budget-neutral,” Lewis said.

Becky Pritchard
Former Islander reporter Becky Pritchard covered the town of Bar Harbor and was a park ranger in Acadia for six seasons.
Becky Pritchard

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