Universal Masking Lifted

Over 1,000 days ago mandatory universal masking became the norm across our service area, the state, nation and world.   As of Monday, May 1, at Calais Community Hospital and Down East Community Hospital universal masking requirements for patients, visitors and staff will mostly be optional and no longer required.  The exceptions that require masking include the presence of respiratory virus symptoms/diagnosis, exposure to Covid-19, and treatment areas such as infusion and OR.  Notices will be in place for areas or patient rooms that require masking.  Masks will continue to be available for anyone who chooses to wear one and patients may also request their caregiver wear a mask if it makes them feel more comfortable.

To help control the spread of illness and enable our facilities to maintain the lift on universal masking, we urge our community members to not visit patients when experiencing respiratory virus symptoms including fever, headaches, body aches, cough, sore throat, stuffy or runny nose, chills, fatigue, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

Please remember that although masks are now optional at CCH and DECH facilities, standard precautions may require some visitors and patients to mask under certain conditions – just as it was prior to the pandemic.

Consider Becoming an Organ, Eye, and Tissue Donor

April is National Donate Life Month.  Down East Community Hospital and Calais Community Hospital want to bring awareness to this very important cause. The month-long campaign showcases various perspectives of those touched by donation and transplantation.  Every year since 2003, April has been filled with stories to spread the lifesaving message of donation to motivate people to register as organ, eye and tissue donors. You can become a donor by registering at www.RegisterMe.org.


The Donate Life America theme for 2023 was inspired by the natural world of a pond coming to life in the spring. Frogs (and toads!) are a sign of healing and renewal, and water lilies represent hope.

The generosity of the donors at Down East Community Hospital and Calais Community Hospital has restored health to many grateful recipients of lifesaving and life enhancing transplants.  We are proud to be Donate Life organizations.


In 2022, more than 42,000 transplants from 21,300 donors brought renewed life to patients and their families.  A single tissue donor can help more than 75 people.  Sadly, 5,230 transplant candidates died in 2022 while on the national transplant waiting list.  More than 100,000 people are on the national transplant waiting list for lifesaving organ transplants.


Most Americans support donation as an opportunity to give life and health to others.  Unfortunately, many people overlook the important step of registering their decision to be a donor.  Take that important step today and become an organ, eye, and tissue donor by going to RegisterMe.org, it takes less than two minutes.



Aggressive Behavior in Healthcare

They Protected You From COVID.  Now They Need Protection from You?

Machias and Calais – The last few years have been difficult to say the least. The many changes that came because of COVID and everything that went with it have resulted in frayed nerves, high stress levels and mounting frustrations.  Our staff feel it and so do our patients.  Even though we have very little control over the many situations that cause some of these stressors, our staff often bear the brunt of people’s frustration and anger, in person and over the phone.  We want to promote a good work environment and a place of healing, but abuse destroys that for everyone.  It destroys that for staff who are caring for you and for patients who are here to rest and recover.   We are appealing to our community for help in ensuring our healthcare facilities are a safe place for our staff, without the fear of aggression, verbal abuse, or violence.

According to the International Association of Healthcare safety and security, “healthcare workers are five times more likely to be a victim of workplace violence than those in other occupations.” The rise in people’s threatening behavior has risen exponentially in the ER as wait times for treatment grow.  Staff members are being yelled at, sworn at, threatened, and even assaulted physically.  This is not OK.  This kind of behavior threatens the trust and the healing partnership we need to have with our patients and their families and causes additional fear and anxiety for the staff, patients and families who hear and see these altercations take place.

Stress is already high when someone presents for care, especially in the emergency department, and people are generally not in a good frame of mind, but currently there is a disproportionate amount of anger surrounding delays, safety policies, visitation, and masking. We remind our staff the anger from patients is not really directed at them, but we also need to protect our staff.  Work should never include being verbally or physically assaulted. We know that people are frustrated with the situation and are taking it out on the person in charge. We understand the challenges that patients are facing and the frustration that comes with that. However, people need to understand that what is happening here is happening across the state and across the country and most issues are out of the control of our direct care staff.

DECH and CCH CEO, Steve Lail, “We do our best to meet the needs of our patients and we deal the best we can with circumstances that are beyond our control.  People yelling, being disruptive, and getting aggressive with our staff cannot be allowed.  So, we must ask that people be more tolerant.  It is on us as a community to protect our healthcare workers. Staff are people too.  They are just doing their jobs.  Taking care of you is part of that job, but tolerating abuse is not.  To protect and retain our staff and make sure we continue to have staff to take care of our patients, WE, as a community, must change directions and get back on the road to civility.  We need to reset the expectations of our community.”

DECH and CCH CNO, John Marshall, RN, “Instances of aggressive behavior from patients and family are being seen across our organization from the emergency department to provider offices to outpatient services and inpatient care.   It is often connected to things we can’t fix such as masking, visitor policies and wait times.   No one should come to work and be shouted at and sworn at, it’s not acceptable.  Every patient deserves respect and courtesy, but so do staff.  We have a responsibility to be kind to one another.  We know it can be frustrating when you or a loved one is unwell, but we are just trying to do our job and provide the best care.”

Remember, everything that is taking place in our area is taking place across Maine and across the country.  And, it is not just healthcare experiencing this, it is felt throughout most organizations throughout the nation.  Let’s reset and work together for the health of our community to foster healing environments throughout our organizations and provide a safe space for our staff to provide the best care.

DECH Mammography Goes 3D

October 2022 Machias – Down East Community Hospital made the upgrade to a Senographe Pristina™ mammography unit in 2021.  This system provided 2 dimensional screenings as well as additional comfort.  We are happy to announce we purchased the upgrade to that system and can now offer 3 dimensional screenings to our patients!

This technology, also known as digital breast tomosynthesis, delivers superior diagnostic accuracy at the same low dose as a 2D mammography exam.   The technology uses a low-dose short X-ray “sweep” around the positioned breast with nine exposures acquired with a “step-and-shoot” method. This helps remove any movement of the x-ray tube, reducing blur and increasing image sharpness.

Designed from the ground up with the input from women, this mammography system provides women with the “three Cs”: comfort, confidence, and clarity.  Even the machine itself is designed to resemble not just a piece of medical equipment, but a piece of art, with rounded edges and elegant lighting. But the design is more than just aesthetic; the gentle, rounded corners of the image receptor, where the woman’s breast is placed, completely changes the stance of the traditional mammogram for a more relaxed, comfortable screening.

The design of this equipment improves the technologist’s workflow; which improves the patient experience and leads to faster, more precise exams.

Down East Community Hospital chose the Senographe Pristina because of its reliability and optimal imaging capability.  We upgraded to 3D mammography to provide state-of-the-art imaging to our community.

DECH Lights Up The Machias Bridge

October 2022 Machias – Down East Community Hospital begun Breast Cancer Awareness month by wrapping the Machias bridge in pink lights!  Now it is time to get together for an awareness celebration.  We ask that you come join us on October 13 at 6pm as we gather for our Breast Cancer Awareness event at Bad Little Falls Park in Machias.

You are invited to a ceremony dedicated to the lives that have been touched by breast cancer and hear from our guest speaker, Holly Whitney.  Holly is a breast cancer survivor who has a story to tell and a message to share.  We will be honoring survivors and those who are no longer with us so come prepared to mention your loved ones or share your own message.

We will start the evening by meeting at the end of the Machias Bridge by Whitney’s Tri Town Marine.  There, you can pick up your battery-operated candle and line up for our short walk to Bad Little Falls Park where there will be warm cider and snacks waiting.

We are asking our community to help us in our effort by bringing a little pink to their own neighborhood.  There will be 100 pink light bulbs available at the ceremony so you can switch out your porch light with a pink one for the remainder of October.  We hope to see you at the event!

For more information, Call Julie Hixson at 255-0433.

Three Family Practice Providers Relocate to Down East Health Center in East Machias

September 2022 East Machias – Down East Community Hospital’s Family Practice Providers Belinda Barron, FNP, Sandra Manship, FNP, and Fred Hartman, MD, who practiced at the lower level of the Reid Emery Building in Machias, have relocated to the Down East Health Center at 1031 Main Street in East Machias. This move will give them added exam rooms as well as a room dedicated to lab draws!

“We apologize in advance for the inconvenience and confusion this will likely cause in the interim but are excited to offer the best accommodations for our patients and look forward to serving our community in the new location. In anticipation of questions, we would like to confirm that Pediatrics has returned to the Robertson Building on the hospital campus and that Dr. David Rioux’s practice will remain in the Reid Emery Building,” stated Bobbie Steeves, Director of Practice Management.

Our family practitioners provide continuing, comprehensive care for individuals of all ages. They deliver a wide range of acute, chronic, and preventive medical care services. In addition to diagnosing and treating illnesses, they also provide preventive care, including routine checkups, immunizations and screening tests, and work with individuals to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

The phone number for family practice providers at the Down East Health Center is 207-255-2772.

Down East Community Hospital’s Annual Flu Shot Clinic Comes to an End, For a Positive Reason

September 2022 Machias – Access to Influenza vaccines has increased greatly over the years and that is good news for our community.  Down East Community Hospital began its annual flu shot clinic to address a lack of access.  As the years progressed the number of shots provided by the clinic steadily declined.  More people have received their shots as early as August at local pharmacies such as Walgreen’s, Machias Family Pharmacy, and Hannaford and that is in addition to the many who receive their shots at their local provider’s office.  Because of this, we have opted to focus our efforts to other community health issues such as food insecurity, health screenings, and prevention of child suicides.  We will redirect these funds to support those needs.

We will continue to have vaccine clinics for our patients at Milbridge Medical Center and Arnold Memorial Medical Center and have vaccines available at all our provider offices.

Whether you get your vaccination from your primary care provider or at one of the many other locations, we urge you to get your flu shot. Influenza is a contagious disease that spreads every year. It is mainly transmitted by coughing, sneezing, and close contact. Anyone can get the flu and spread the flu. Each year thousands of people die from influenza so help protect yourself and your loved ones by getting vaccinated.

We are excited to develop new programs to support our community’s needs.

DECH Sponsors the Roque Bluffs Community Center’s Fundraiser Event for the Machias Food Pantry

July 2022 Machias – Down East Community Hospital CEO, Steve Lail, presents fundraisers Arline Smith and Tammi Aiello with $1,500.00 for the Roque Bluffs Community Center’s August event to raise funds for the Machias Area Food Pantry.

The goal of the fundraiser is to raise enough money to buy a large refrigerator and a freezer for the Machias Food Pantry.  The fun packed event will take place at Roque Bluffs State Park on Saturday, August 13 from 10am to 4pm.  Lunch will be provided and there will be games, face painting and prizes. And, a Bagpiper will be playing at 1pm! The cost to attend is just $7.00 per person and all proceeds will go to the Machias Food Pantry.

CEO, Steve Lail, “The food pantries have always provided an invaluable service to the community.  The need is increasing so it is more important than ever to give so they can continue to help those who are food insecure.  We hope they have a huge turnout for the event and are very thankful for the individuals and groups out there like the Roque Bluffs Community Center who donate their time to help those in need.”

Newly Expanded Orthopedic Building Open for Patients

June 2022 Machias – Down East Community Hospital is pleased to announce that our newly expanded and renovated Orthopedic Building is complete and open for patients.

CEO, Steve Lail, on the expansion, “The original building could no longer accommodate the growth that was taking place in the practice. The providers and staff needed room to do their work and the close quarters made it difficult for patients to navigate.  Something had to change; we needed to expand. This new space is great for our providers and staff but most importantly, because of easier access to the building and exam rooms, it is great for our patients.”

The expansion project that broke ground in early spring more than doubled the space of the existing building.  There are now seven spacious exam rooms, an office for each provider, a large waiting room, three bathrooms, and a fully furnished breakroom for staff.

An open house will be held on June 29 from 4:30 to 6:00pm.  We hope you can stop by take a little tour, meet the staff, and enjoy some refreshments.

Calais Community Hospital Hosts One-Year Anniversary Celebration

June 2022 Calais – Calais Community Hospital is hosting a special celebration to commemorate its one-year anniversary as a member of the Down East Community Hospital organization.   A thank you BBQ is being held for staff and community members for the support received throughout the last year.

The event will take place on July 1, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. in the lower parking at the hospital.  It will celebrate a year of collaboration and commitment to serving the residents of Washington County and recognizing the hospital’s 100 plus year legacy in the community.

Calais Community Hospital CEO, Steve Lail, said, “Just a year ago the hospital was in the midst of bankruptcy and struggling with low volumes and low resources.   The acquisition by DECH brought a lot of hard work and some tough decisions, but CCH is now moving in a positive direction.  We truly have reason to celebrate.”

As a result, Calais Community Hospital has kept its doors open, ensuring ongoing access to vital care and services and providing benefits to both staff and patients.

Lail stated, “Among Calais Community Hospital’s first year achievements are the recruitment of new providers, including an orthopedic surgeon to bring back the orthopedic program to Calais and a full time general surgeon; upgrades to the radiology department; a new MRI machine, new testing equipment in the lab and provider offices to test for covid, flu and rsv onsite; and positive wage adjustments for staff across the organization to more accurately reflect appropriate market level.   Steadying the financial condition of the hospital has stabilized jobs for over 175 employees, which has a positive economic and employment ripple effect throughout the area.    Keeping the hospital thriving and viable is not just important to the physical health or our community members, but also to the economic health of our area.”

The celebration on July 1 will commemorate a year of new beginnings and celebrate a future of hope, healing, and shared commitment to serving the healthcare needs of the community.   “We are honored to continue the legacy of healthcare in Eastern Washington County through Calais Community Hospital as an essential community partner comprised of committed providers and staff dedicated to improving health,” said CEO Steve Lail.