I am an emergency department physician assistant who works at four different community hospitals. We fill an important role in providing rural residents access to specialized medical care in emergencies and rely on our tertiary facilities, especially our trauma centers, for these specialists.

I wanted to bring to your attention a recent case where I was working on a weekend and a little girl with a serious eye injury presented to me for care.

I was unable to find an ophthalmologist on call at any of our state’s trauma centers: Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor, Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston, or Maine Medical Center in Portland. I also could not find one available at MaineGeneral in Augusta. As a result, the child had to be taken four hours by ambulance to Massachusetts Eye and Ear in Boston.

Maine Medical Center touts itself as a Level One trauma center, a prestigious designation applied for and conferred by the American College of Surgeons. Having worked at MMC, and having sent many patients there, I have had excellent experience as a provider in helping trauma patients access care at that institution. Their doctors and nurses are world class.

A Level One trauma center is supposed to have an ophthalmologist available 24/7, as outlined in the American College of Surgeons’ “Resources for Optimal Care of the Injured Patient” guidelines. Yet this is not the case, and it is hurting patients from our state.

Ironically, MMC was created in 1951 through the merger of several institutions, including the Maine Eye and Ear Infirmary.

I ask MMC, the Maine Medical Association and Maine’s ophthalmologists what can be done to provide Maine’s residents better access to emergency eye care without sending them out of state.

Gordon Murphy, PA-C, MPH

Bar Harbor