Building New Bridges for Islander Health

Photo: Health pros head toward the Sunbeam for the “Meet Your Providers” event. (Courtesy Doreen Willett, Executive Director Island Connections www.islconnections.org)

BAR HARBOR, ME — Tuesday, April 10, the Sunbeam eased away from it’s home dock in Northeast Harbor on a special telemedicine trip that turned out to be more special than anyone imagined.

Island Health director Sharon Daley, RN and Island Outreach director Douglas Cornman have earned islanders’ trust in matters of health care. Over the years the two Sunbeam crew members have served as — in director Sharon Daley’s words — “a bridge from islands to health providers.” Quite often directors Cornman and Daley find themselves explaining to islanders the services of certain mainland health providers.

Then why not host a “Meet Your Provider” event aboard the Sunbeam? Mainland providers could introduce themselves to islanders. Islanders could ask health providers direct questions about their services. So the Sunbeam’s first stop Tuesday morning was Great Cranberry Isle (GCI). Eight mainland health providers met the Sunbeam at GCI ahead of interested islanders who would come to the event from GCI and Islesford.

That’s when the serendipity kicked in. While waiting for islanders, “The providers were so busy talking to each other and networking. Most of them didn’t really know each other or what each other did,” said Sharon Daley.

Photo: Island Health director Sharon Daley (foreground) and Island Outreach director Douglas Cornman (background near staircase) listening to islanders and health providers in Sunbeam salon. (Courtesy Doreen Willett, Executive Director Island Connections www.islconnections.org)

Out of that networking came the first inkling of the providers seeing first-hand the relationship Sharon and Douglas have with islanders. “That insight helps providers integrate what they do with the Sunbeam’s work,” Cornman said.

Coupled with their own networking, the health providers learned where their own services were unique, where services might overlap, and where services are lacking. Plus, said Cornman, “Islanders were able to put a face to the agencies,” he and Sharon talk about. “This will help islanders,” said the Island Outreach director, “feel more comfortable if and when they decide to use agency services.”

Elise O’Neil took part in the Sunbeam “Meet Your Provider” event. Ms. O’Neil, a registered nurse, is Mt. Desert Nursing Association Nurse Administrator. O’Neil, too, thought the event “was a wonderful networking opportunity” for MDNA, which provides home health care to Islesford, Great Cranberry, and other islands. O’Neil said in an email, that her health organization is looking “forward to collaborating with the Seacoast Mission and others. There is so much potential to build upon what the Seacoast Mission has already accomplished,” O’Neil said.

The April 10 Sunbeam telemedicine trip was special for another reason. Acadia Family Center in Southwest Harbor had its executive director, Dr. Dan Johnson, aboard at the “Meet Your Provider” event. But, Dr. Johnson stayed on board, traveling with Sharon on the Sunbeam for the three days (April 10-12).

On Isle au Haut, Frenchboro, and Matinicus, Dr. Johnson offered islanders his know-how with a talk on “Forming Habits: Both Good and Bad,” including Johnson’s exploration of addiction.

“The rest of the trip,” Johnson said, “was a great chance to see how valuable the Sunbeam is to the outer islands. It is amazing to watch islanders come to the boat — almost as a floating community center.”

Maine Seacoast Mission is grateful to the all of the health providers invited to take part in the April 10 “Meet Your Providers” Sunbeam event:

Learn more about the Sunbeam‘s Island Health and Island Outreach programs.