Maine Medical Center on Monday will open the state’s only 24-hour pharmacy, which for the first time will allow patients to fill their prescriptions at the hospital before being discharged.

Called simply The Pharmacy, it will also be open to the public. The closest 24-hour pharmacy is in Rochester, New Hampshire.

The Portland hospital will be hiring 10 pharmacists and 25 pharmacy technicians, with a capital investment of $1 million for renovating space inside the hospital. But unlike retail drugstores, the hospital pharmacy will only be selling prescriptions and giving advice to patients. There won’t be any candy, milk, shampoo or hair styling products for sale.

“We think the focus should entirely be on pharmacy services and not what products are going out the door,” said Brian Marden, senior director of pharmacy.

Dr. Michael Baumann, chief of emergency medicine at Maine Med, said it will be convenient for many patients as they are being sent home after surgery – some will even have their prescriptions delivered to them at their bedsides before they leave.

“This is the best thing to happen to patients in the emergency department in a long time,” Baumann said. “After they’re released from the hospital, they don’t want to go get out of bed the following morning to get their prescriptions.”

While the hospital provides medications for patients while they are in the hospital, until Monday it did not have a way of filling prescriptions in-house. Medical professionals concluded that was leading to patients being more likely to miss doses or not bother getting their medications filled at their neighborhood pharmacy. In addition, more rural patients may not live near a drugstore.

“Thirty-three percent of patients were not getting their prescriptions filled after they left, and that is not unique to this hospital,” said Maine Med Dr. Joel Botler, who helped launch the pharmacy. Whether it was inertia, confusion about what medicines to take, or reluctance to take medications, Botler said failure to take pills was causing complications for patients after discharge, and was also likely contributing to readmissions.

The federal government is pushing hospitals to reduce avoidable readmissions to cut down on overall health care costs, and Botler said Maine Med’s readmission rate could decline if patients do a better job of taking their medications. The pharmacy will also do extensive consultations with patients on the reasons the medications are necessary, and boost the tracking of medications so that the hospital is more aware of each patient’s history.

Members of the public can also walk in to fill prescriptions. That will be helpful for patients experiencing overnight pain.

“I was a primary care physician for a long time, and if I got a call after-hours, I would tell them I’m happy to fill the prescription but they had to wait until the morning to pick it up,” Botler said. “But if you’re experiencing a lot of pain overnight, that can be a long 10 hours waiting for the pharmacy to open.”

The pharmacy is near the hospital’s main entrance, and will be open 24/7, including all holidays.