Holistic Hospitals Appear in Maine

Classical music, aromatherapy, massage tables…these are things you’d expect to find at a day spa.  But these mind-relaxing modes are now being used for a different purpose…medicine.

It used to be that hospitals kept to traditional, or what’s known as western medicine.

But more medical facilities in Maine are realizing that treating the problem isn’t enough, you have to mend the person as well.

“In the last decade or so, the word integrative medicine has been used more and more.”

Dr. john Woytowicz should know. He’s the Director of Integrative Medicine at Maine Dartmouth Family Medicine Residency in Augusta. The physician started studying herbs at the request of his patients.

“Over time, I’ve incorporated botanical medicine into my practice,” says Dr. Woytowicz.

At one time, holistic healing was considered alternative medicine. But now, Dr. Woytowicz and other physicians around Maine are offering it to their patients as an enhancement option for more traditional treatments.

“I try to use it as another service to provide to them, another set of skills that might help them,” the herbalist says.

Dr. Woytowicz says many common health problems can be treated with botanical medicines.

“Things like headaches, arthritis, digestive problems is a very, very common area where herbal medicines can be very, very useful. Herbs are different from pharmaceuticals in many ways. I mean, they have active ingredients, but there’s many active ingredients in a plant. And they’re balanced in some ways.”

Sherrie Woodward is the Senior Vice President for Patient Services at Maine General Medical Center.

“I think we’re coming out of a generation that looked for a pill to be the answer for everything.”

Maine General has incorporated integrative medicine into many of its patient services. Things like art and music therapy, reiki, accupuncture, and massage.

“We try to look at the patient as an individual and as a whole. And what works for you may not work for me,” says Woodward.

Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor also uses integrative medicine, particularly in its rehab and cancer centers.

Reiki, a type of touch therapy, is provided to patients as well as family members.

“Patients have had very positive responses,” says Martha Wildman, director of volunteer services at EMMC. “We’re tracking our sessions, Reiki sessions, and the patients have overwhelmingly had very positive responses. They don’t all necessarily know exactly what’s happened but they are very comfortable with it and feel very comforted and much less pain in a lot of situations.”

“I think as we’re learning, that often times healing comes from within and that there are many different modalities of what we need to do,” says Woodward.

A call to hospitals around the area revealed that integrative medicine is still a new idea.

Mayo Regional Hospital in Dover Foxcroft does offer accupucture at one of its family practices.

St. Joseph Hospital in Bangor offers an art therapy program for folks with diabetes.

Waldo County General Hospital in Belfast did offer reiki and massage therapy, but was forced to stop because of budget cuts.