Central Maine Healthcare suspends merger with Parkview hospital in Brunswick

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LEWISTON — Central Maine Healthcare has temporarily suspended its application to take over Parkview Adventist Medical Center in Brunswick.

CMHC, the parent organization of Central Maine Medical Center, sent its suspension request to the Maine Department of Health and Human Services on Thursday. The department for months has been considering a CMHC-Parkview merger, over the vehement protests of Mid Coast Hospital in Brunswick that also wants to take over Parkview.

CMHC spokesman Chuck Gill said DHHS officials asked in January for a feasibility study to look at Parkview’s services and forecast the best use of the hospital. CMHC needs extra time to complete that study, Gill said, and has asked to freeze the application process for up to 12 months.

He said CMHC remains committed to partnering with Parkview and the suspension does not mean it wants to withdraw its application.

“While the delay is unfortunate, we expect to use the time to make Parkview even stronger,” Gill said. “We remain upbeat about Parkview joining Central Maine Healthcare in the future, and we believe Parkview will continue to serve the people of the mid-coast region with compassion and distinction.”

He said the decision was made jointly with Parkview officials. Parkview’s spokeswoman referred all questions to CMHC.

CMHC for years has helped support the financially challenged, 55-bed Parkview. In 2008 it filed a letter of intent, the first step to a full application, telling the state it wanted to formally take over Parkview. But CMHC let that proposal expire a year later because it proved so controversial, Gill said.

“There was so much noise in the air in Brunswick,” he said

CMHC filed a new letter of intent in June 2012 and followed through with a full application in August. But this most recent proposal has proven to be just as controversial.

In October, about 300 people packed a public hearing to tell state officials what they thought of CMHC’s plan to take over Parkview. Some lauded CMHC’s proposal while others panned it, saying they wanted Mid Coast to take over Parkview – a competing plan that Mid Coast officially put forth with its own application but which was tossed out by DHHS because the department said it “cannot and will not review the submission on a competitive basis.”

On Thursday, Mid Coast spokesman Steve Trockman said Mid Coast leaders weren’t surprised that the state requested more information from CMHC.

“This is such an important issue for the economy and for health care in Maine and the mid-coast region,” he said. “Mid Coast Hospital’s position on this issue has not changed.”

Mid Coast believes it could improve health care and save the area money if it took over Parkview. However, Parkview leaders have said they have no interest in partnering with their competitor.

Once CMHC’s application is reactivated, DHHS’ Licensing and Regulatory Services Division will consider CMHC’s proposal and make a recommendation to DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew. She will make the final decision.

In addition to Central Maine Medical Center, CMHC runs small hospitals in Bridgton and Rumford, both of which were acquired through a similar process in 1999.

Lindsay Tice can be reached at ltice@sunjournal.com.