A Message from Denise Needham, PharmD, President


In many ways, 2023 will be remembered as the year the COVID-19 pandemic ended. And yet, as we emerged from the pandemic, we also discovered that the world around us had changed to present a new set of challenges and opportunities. We found ourselves facing staff shortages, increased numbers of high acuity and long-term stay patients, as well as the financial challenges of an unfavorable reimbursement system, to name a few. We began to transform ourselves when these challenges were presented just as we transformed ourselves to meet the challenges of the pandemic. I have no doubt that the new version of us will emerge stronger and even better positioned to care for our communities. And yet, as I began my tenure as the new president of Pen Bay and Waldo, I can confidently say that some very important things remain unchanged and continue to serve as our North Star.

For example, we remain committed to the MaineHealth vision of working together to make our communities the healthiest in America. One way we can achieve this is through expanding access to healthcare for everyone in our communities, and we’ve made significant strides in this effort during 2023. Let me share a few examples.

First, a unified approach to primary care at Waldo. We have launched a renovation of the Biscone building at 119 Northport Avenue that will allow us to bring all of our primary care practices at Waldo under one roof. Until recently, those practices were spread out over three offices, each with a unique address. This will make it easier for patients to navigate our campus to receive the care they need. Significantly, it will also give providers improved opportunities to communicate and collaborate to provide even better care to our patients. Called the Medical Home Model, this approach has proven itself at Pen Bay’s Beebe Health Center, and we are excited to bring it to Waldo.

Pen Bay and Waldo community health workers. No longer content to wait for our patients to come to us for their healthcare needs, we’ve launched our new community health worker initiative, which is designed to break barriers to accessing health resources and services. Our community health workers have lived experience in the communities they serve, and serve as the link between community members and available resources to help them address and manage their health. From connecting them with food resources and vocational training to helping fill out applications and providing support during medical appointments, community health workers are committed to addressing the social, medical, and community problems that contribute to poor health.

The Waldo Ortho expansion. We responded to a rise in the number of orthopedic patients seeking care close to home by nearly doubling the size of Waldo’s Orthopedics and Sports Medicine practice, increasing the number of patient rooms from three to eight.

And finally, the Pen Bay Emergency Department expansion. We completed the second phase of this three-phase $9 million project, which broke ground in 2021. The expansion work is being driven by high volumes, advancements in emergency medicine that require more equipment, as well as a significant increase in the severity of cases presented to the ED and an increase in the numbers of behavioral health patients. Our patient population is often sicker and requires longer stay in the ED, resulting in less turnover and fewer available exam rooms at any one time. When the project is completed in early 2025, it will have expanded our count to 25 exam rooms, serving to alleviate this challenge.

And despite functioning in a construction zone, our care teams continue to provide the highest quality of patient centered care, having received numerous recognitions by grateful patients throughout even the most challenging phases of the project. This important work was funded in large part by the generosity of so many of our community members. We are deeply grateful to all of them.

It was some 2,000 years ago, the Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, “Change is the only constant in life.” When I think about the changing world we faced in 2023, I see both challenges to the way we used to deliver healthcare and increased opportunities to make it easier for everyone in our communities to access the care they need. My confidence that we will thrive during this post pandemic period is born in the resilience of our care team members. During the COVID-19 pandemic, they set up mass vaccination clinics, wore masks for 12-hour shifts day after day, and when visitation was suspended during the darkest days, held up iPads so that families could share a final visit with their dying loved ones. With grit, compassion, and adaptability, they got all of us through COVID, and I am confident that together we will rise to the challenges and opportunities that lay ahead.

Arching over all of this are the enduring values that guide us at Pen Bay and Waldo. We remain deeply committed to caring for our patients, our care teams, and our community. With all due respect to Heraclitus, that will never change.