Brunswick hospitals await bankruptcy judge’s merger decision

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TOPSHAM — Depending on a bankruptcy court decision possible this week, Parkview and Mid Coast hospitals of Brunswick are set to merge.

Parkview Adventist Medical Center filed for voluntary Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection June 15.

The hospital’s “pre-packaged” bankruptcy plan involves merging with nearby Mid Coast Hospital to form a new Mid Coast-Parkview Health System.

Since then, Mid Coast President and CEO Lois Skillings and Parkview President Randee Reynolds have made presentations to local town councils, community groups and chambers of commerce to explain their new “vision.”

The two hospital executives led a presentation and question-and-answer session Tuesday night for a crowd of about 40 at the Topsham Public Library.

Skillings and Reynolds painted a picture of a national health-care system in chaos, and two local hospitals trying to beat the tide.

“One thing … we were aligned about is that the health care system is broken,” Skillings said. “Costs are too much and not good enough … for the outcomes we are receiving.”

She said the U.S. has the highest per capita health-care costs of any industrialized nation, and that costs in Maine are even higher than the national average.

But, she added, “our community is responding.”

Both Skillings and Reynolds said they had been working together for “quite some time,” even before Parkview filed for bankruptcy protection.

They argued the largest way their merger will cut local health-care costs is by reducing “wasteful duplication.”

One example Skillings gave is that Mid Coast and Parkview both operated acute-care units with overnight beds.

“This is the smallest community in New England trying to support two acute-care hospitals,” she said. “Those are expensive, underutilized services you need 24 hours to run … (consolidating) will save communities millions of dollars.”

Reynolds said the new Mid Coast-Parkview will streamline by moving all emergency and acute care to the Mid Coast campus, a process already underway, and turning Parkview into a walk-in clinic and primary-care center, with some oncology and lab units.

“We are going to focus on community health and wellness probably more than we ever have before,” he said.

“Hospitals are almost a failure of the health-care system,” Skillings said. “We need to flip the system so care starts at the base … primary care.”

People in the audience were supportive of Skillings and Reynold’s message.

One person said she had gone through one of Parkview’s community wellness programs, called Lifestyle Choices, a two-week evening course focusing on nutrition, exercise and stress management.

“It blew my mind away,” she said.

Reynolds said turning the Parkview campus into a primary-care center will involve expanding programs like Lifestyle Choices.

A healthier community “will make insurance rates go down in our region of the state,” Skillings said.

“We will be successful,” she added.

But the elephant in the room was that the executives’ visions relied on the outcome of a U.S. Bankruptcy Court hearing in Portland on Wednesday.

A key component of Parkview’s reorganization is the private sale of much of its property to Mid Coast, which must be approved by the bankruptcy court.

Central Maine Healthcare Corp. of Lewiston, which previously tried to acquire Parkview in 2013, has objected to the sale.

CMHC also contends that Parkview owes it, as well as its affiliate, Central Maine Medical Center, upwards of $13 million in claims.

After a day of courtroom testimony and closed-door discussions in Portland Aug. 19, U.S. Banktuptcy Judge Peter Cary ordered proceedings to resume at 9 a.m. Thursday.

“If any of you are people who pray, that would be great,” Skillings told the crowd Tuesday.

Walter Wuthmann can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or Follow Walter on Twitter: @wwuthmann.

Parkview Adventist Medical Center, which opened in Brunswick in 1959, filed for bankruptcy on June 16.

Brunswick/Harpswell reporter for The Forecaster. Bowdoin College grad, San Francisco Bay Area native. Follow for municipal, school, community, and environmental news from the Midcoast.