To my fellow Chebeaguers,
For the past 20 years I've enjoyed volunteering off and on and continually for the last two years, two hours per week at the Clinic in the Seabury Room at the Chebeague Island Hall and Community Center. It was nice. It was an appropriate setting; I had all the supplies I needed, mostly donated or provided by NorDx Labs. There was a secure, dedicated FAX line and a private phone line for Clinic use. The Island Council has always hosted the Clinic as it was part of their mission. No one ever complained about my performance, I always remained within my scope of practice, and followed all best practice guidelines. Every month at Council meetings I was thanked for my work and no one voiced any concerns.
One day last April, without notice and without an Island Council Executive Committee meeting, the Council president summoned me to her office in the Library to say she was closing the Clinic. The reason she gave me was that I had no malpractice insurance. I told her I did and produced a copy of my six (6) million dollar policy. She said she was closing the Clinic anyway.
People were counting on my service. I sent a notice to the entire Island Council Executive Committee (Board) stating that emergency action needed to be taken. A meeting was called. At that meeting Council vice-president presided and stated that the meeting was only to confirm that the Clinic would remain closed. No plausible reason was given. She told all the Council members that keeping the Clinic open would risk them losing their homes due to liability issues.
I told them that they each had 1 million dollars worth of liability insurance provided by the Council for Board Members. I also brought copies of the law that showed that 501(c)(3) board members were protected from personal liability. Vice-president claimed that that was "my opinion." She said liability insurance does not cover "defense attorneys." I called the insurance company and found out it does. At the next meeting when I reported that, the officers said insurance companies will lie to get your business and that all the Council Board members’ assets were at risk.
I extensively searched the laws and regulations. The Clinic had been in compliance. I personally spoke to the Attorney General of the State of Maine, Janet Mills, who reassured me that there were no legal problems. I urged the Council to at least let me reopen the Clinic while the restructuring was planned. My continued urgency to reopen made me an annoyance to the Council. I was told that I had done nothing wrong in the Clinic and that the change would not adversely impact my professional reputation. However, I was asked to resign. When I refused to give up my position on the board, I was voted off the upcoming ballot for reelection. I was frustrated and felt powerless.
I started doing blood draws at my home; the summer brought residents who could not safely nor comfortably travel to the mainland for weekly lab work. It became evident that the population I served required a ramp; an ADA compliant ramp would be huge and costly. The Hall Association (not the Council) generously agreed to let me use space in their area of the Community Center. However without any storage, phone lines, FAX or copier it has been a challenge.
Recently, other smooth operating, autonomous services of the Council have seen their capable volunteers resign. Whether or not I am involved in this activity, it is needed in the community. I want to see the Council return to its former policy of providing competent, needed services run by volunteers who are given the trust and autonomy to properly use their expertise to benefit Chebeague Island.
Nancy L. Hill, RN, EMT-P (Paramedic)
November 27, 2015