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Maine Technical College System

News Release

New Programs Funded in Presque Isle and Dover-Foxcroft, Scholarships Target New Generation of Health Workers

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, April 16, 2003
CONTACT: Alice Kirkpatrick
Tel: (207) 767-0116, ext. 3

BANGOR, Maine — In hopes of averting a looming crisis that threatens to restrict access to quality health care, several Maine organizations have teamed up to work collaboratively to address the shortage of nurses and other health care workers.

At a press conference today at Eastern Maine Technical College in Bangor, Governor John Baldacci joined leaders of the Maine Hospital Association, Maine Technical College System and Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield to announce the formation of the Health Care Workforce Alliance — a partnership to address the worker shortage.

In launching the initiative, the three partners in the Alliance announced a joint investment of $400,000 to expand two health programs into underserved rural areas — a nursing program in Dover-Foxcroft and radiologic technology program in Aroostook County — and 100 new scholarships for young adults pursuing health careers.

"I commend the partners in this Alliance for stepping forward to tackle this problem together," said Governor Baldacci. "Healthealth care employs more Maine people than any other sector of our economy, and impacts our very quality of life. We cannot achieve affordable, accessible health care for our citizens if we don't address the shortage of skilled health care workers," he said.

The Maine Hospital Association and Maine Technical College System will collaborate in the development of a long-term plan to identify the most pressing workforce needs, and seek funding sources to expand educational opportunities and scholarships.

"No matter how well equipped the hospital building, people administer care to patients," said Steven Michaud, President of the Maine Hospital Association. "Without a new generation of health care professionals, hospitals won't be able to meet the increased need for services expected in the next ten years," he said.

"We know that the vast majority of graduates from the technical colleges — soon to be community colleges — stay and find work in their communities," said Jim Parker, General Manager, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield. "By expanding health care worker training, we will help address the on-going need for a skilled workforce to meet hospital-based health care needs. Doing so is one of the right answers to helping control rising costs," he said.

The Alliance came about from discussions between the Maine Hospital Association, which represents 38 member hospitals in Maine, and the Maine Technical College System, after Michaud approached John Fitzsimmons, president of the Technical College System to express concerns about the shortage.

In Maine, fifteen of the health care occupations with the greatest projected shortages require one or two years of higher education — making the technical colleges a key player in solving the issue. The technical colleges received legislative approval last month to assume the broader mission of community colleges, which have a long history of educating nurses and other allied health workers.

"Sixty-five percent of new health care workers are educated at community colleges. If health care was a priority of our technical colleges, it will be an even larger priority of our community colleges," said Fitzsimmons.

The Alliance will provide $200,000 ($100,000 each) to Eastern Maine Technical College in Bangor and Northern Maine Technical College in Presque Isle for two projects:

  • EMTC will partner with Mayo Regional Hospital to expand its nursing program into Dover-Foxcroft. Mayo Regional Hospital has committed $80,000 to develop a nursing laboratory at the Penquis Center.
  • NMTC in Presque Isle will develop a radiologic technology program in Aroostook County. NMTC will partner with EMTC — which has a highly-regarded program already in place — as well as Aroostook Medical Center and Eastern Maine Medical Center.

The MHA, MTCS and Anthem will also provide $200,000 in funds to create 100 new scholarships for young adults pursuing careers in health care. The scholarships will be awarded to students aged 17 to 24 who are admitted to a technical college health care program. Scholarship recipients will receive up to $1,000 for each year of a one or two-year program.