Maine Medical Center expansion in Portland gets 2 approvals

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PORTLAND — The proposed $512 million expansion of Maine Medical Center cleared two hurdles last week with approvals from the city Planning Board and the state.

On Sept. 26, the Maine Department of Health and Human Services announced it granted a certificate of need required for the hospital to build 128 new patient rooms and 19 new procedure rooms.

“There has never been a doubt about the clinical need for this project. It has been clear to all that we need to expand and modernize to provide the best possible care for our patients,” Maine Medical Center President and CEO Richard Petersen said in a Sept. 27 press release.

On Sept. 26, the city Planning Board approved the Institutional Development Plan and regulatory framework for the overall Maine Med expansion and forwarded the framework to the City Council for its vote.

The development is needed because Maine Med is part of a newly created institutional overlay zone, one of four approved by city councilors to guide development at the hospital, the University of Southern Maine, Mercy Hospital, the University of New England.

In a Sept. 22 memo to the Planning Board and city staff, MMC Chief Operating Officer Jeff Sanders said the new rooms are needed to address demands of modern medical care and alleviate a shortage of beds that occurs when patients cannot share rooms.

“Buildings on the hospital’s main campus date to the late 1800s, and more than half the patient rooms are in buildings more than 40 years old, with some in buildings nearly 80 years old,” spokesman John Porter said. “In some cases – as with the existing employee parking garage – facilities have simply reached the end of their useful life.”

Maine Medical Center is licensed to have 637 beds, but operates at a full capacity of about 550 beds, Sanders said. About 500 patients can be expected on average each day, with about 60 beds closed.

“MMC routinely closes inpatient beds due to patient condition such as infection from drug-resistant organisms or behavior-related issues, room-sharing restrictions such as male/female, and regular building maintenance,” Sanders said.

Hospital management hopes to begin construction in March 2018.

According to a Sept. 22 report by city staff, central to the expansion plan is tearing down an employee parking garage near the corner of Congress and Gilman streets to build 285,000 square feet of medical facilities and a new hospital entrance.

The new entrance is viewed as a short-term development to be done in the next four years, while expansion beyond that is anticipated to happen four to 20 years from now.

Most of the employee parking would shift to a new 2,000-space garage on Maine Medical Center property at 222 St. John St., adjacent to Union Station Plaza. The new garage was initially intended for Gilman Street, but shifted after discussions with hospital neighbors.

Razing the garage also requires moving the hospital helipad from the roof to the East Tower on Wescott Street, which will be expanded by 60,000 square feet. Also in the short-term expansion is adding decks to the visitors’ parking garage on Congress Street to create 225 more parking spaces. The garage is uphill from the one slated to be torn down.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

As part of its planned $512 million expansion, Maine Medical Center will tear down an employee parking garage in Portland, while increasing the size of another one.

Expansion plans at Maine Medical Center call for a new hospital entrance on Congress Street where an employee parking garage now stands.

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Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.