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Brunswick hospital officials: No intention to 'extinguish' competitor

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Brunswick hospital officials: No intention to 'extinguish' competitor

BRUNSWICK — Mid Coast Hospital officials Monday denied they want to consolidate with Parkview Adventist Medical Center to "extinguish" the competing hospital.

Speaking to a packed conference room at Mid Coast Hospital, officials laid out the hospital's proposal as a plan to heal and strengthen health care in the community – and to save $24.3 million a year.

Mid Coast's offer came after Central Maine Healthcare, the parent company of Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston, filed a Certificate of Need on Aug. 29 to take over Parkview. Mid Coast subsequently filed its own Certificate of Need on Sept. 19 to merge with Parkview.

The Maine Department of Health and Human Services will hold a public hearing on Central Maine Healthcare's proposal at 10 a.m. Oct. 24 at the Knights of Columbus building, 2 Columbus Drive.

On Monday, Lois Skillings, president and chief executive officer of Mid Coast Health Services, appealed for support for Mid Coast's competing proposal.

She said two hospitals are too many for a small community like Brunswick, in a state that is paying 25 percent more for health care than the federal average. She said 44 percent of all beds at Mid Coast and Parkview are empty.

"This excess capacity is what's costing our community $24 million extra ... every year in delivering health care," Skillings said. "We feel by coming together, actually diminishing the beds in our region, we can improve that utilization rate and the better we can improve in health, the less need there will be for in-patient beds in the future as well."

For health care to work in the future, she said, three things simultaneously need to happen: the health of the population needs to improve, health care itself must improve – switching its focus to preventative care, in particular – and the per capita cost of care needs to fall.

"The rising cost of health care is breaking the back of our economy," Skillings said, "and we can no longer afford the duplicated waste and expense that has gotten ourselves into this position in the first place."

Parkview officials did not attend Monday's forum. But in a newspaper advertisement published over the weekend, the hospital said it has repeatedly said "no" to proposals by Mid Coast, and that people deserve a choice of hospitals.

"Enough is enough," the ad said. "The most recent barrage of threats has done nothing to change our minds and certainly does not improve the health of the communities we both serve."

It went on the say that Mid Coast's consolidation plan will "extinguish" Parkview.

Linda Cronkhite, a former vice president at St. Mary's Regional Medical Center in Lewiston, shared Parkview's concerns Monday.

"As far as I care, I want options and I can't believe that those of you that are in this room don't want options," she told the forum. "I think these scare tactics are not healthy at all for this community, and I'll tell you if there's only one place in town, I'll go elsewhere."

Skillings replied that Mid Coast is not trying to divide the community.

"What we would like to do is rewrite the next chapter with a fresh slate with an opportunity to work together. It's not really about annihilating, it's actually about saving," she said. "And it's about preventing a very predatory system in another part of the state coming into our community. And I don't even have anything against Central Maine; I think they're a great hospital."

John Morse, president of the Mid Coast Health Services board, also responded to Cronkhite's concerns. He said that even though people in Bath were not happy when Bath Memorial and Regional Memorial hospitals merged in Mid Coast, the long-term effect was good.

"I think they've all seen the light and we're getting better service, a better facility," Morse said.

John Farnham, a member of the Mid Coast Health Services board, said he had a positive experience when he worked with the Hospice Volunteers of Maine as it was merged with Mid Coast.

"I can tell you that the large community of hospice volunteers were very much opposed to this. They were very fearful that this little organization would be swallowed up by this big corporate structure," Farnham said.

"As I looked at the pros and cons of joining with Mid Coast, I realized that that move was essential for the perpetuation of Hospice Volunteers and unless we did that, we would cease to exist as an organization," he said.

Another attendee asked where Mid Coast's $24.3 million in annual savings would originate in the proposed merger. 

"We have virtually two of everything in the two facilities," said Robert McCue, Mid Coast chief financial officer. "Everything would basically reduce down to one." 

He later said Mid Coast would also reduce the number of employees over time, but only through attrition.

Dylan Martin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or dmartin@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DylanLJMartin.