Central Maine Healthcare withdraws application to take over Parkview hospital in Brunswick
LEWISTON — Central Maine Healthcare has withdrawn its application to take over Parkview Adventist Medical Center in Brunswick, saying state regulators aren't playing fair and are "inexplicably but undeniably committed to denying this application."
The state denies that it has unfairly pushed the application forward, saying instead that the health care companies were actively partnering before regulatory approval.
CMHC, the parent organization of Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston, last year filed a certificate of need application seeking state approval for Parkview to join CMHC. The two health care organizations have worked together for years but wanted to deepen and formalize the relationship.
The request proved controversial, even drawing a competing takeover request from Brunswick competitor Mid Coast Hospital the following month. The Department of Health and Human Services' Licensing and Regulatory Services division declined to review Mid Coast's application "on a competitive basis with the submission received by the department by Central Maine Healthcare," according to DLRS records.
CMHC pushed forward until last winter, when DLRS, which reviews and recommends approval or denial of projects by health care facilities, got set to recommend denial of the CMHC-Parkview merger. It said CMHC didn't provide enough information in its application.
CMHC asked to put its application on hold for a year so it could get that information. The state agreed in February.
But CMHC officials said they were surprised this summer when the department notified them that it was reactivating the application early, against CMHC's wishes.
"Six months is not a year," CMHC spokesman Chuck Gill said.
In a strongly worded letter to the department and an assistant attorney general, CMHC's lawyer, Michael Poulin, alluded to hostility from division staff members and CMHC's "request to resolve the Department's concerns in a constructive manner."
He said the department's plan to reactivate the application early was "plainly illegal," but that CMHC saw no point in spending time, money and resources to appeal when the division seemed committed to denying the application.
Gill declined to talk about the details of the exchange between the department and CMHC, but said CMHC was following the review rules when the process "got derailed." He said CMHC could not meet the application deadline six months earlier than expected.
"We are not ready to proceed," he said.
According to DHHS spokesman John Martins, the DLRS decision to reactivate CMHC's CON application was based on a variety of factors.
In a letter dated June 18, according to Martins, DLRS shared with CMHC that it had been made aware of actions the health care company had undertaken to further the acquisition of Parkview, including the appointment of a CMHC employee as Parkview’s CEO and the acquisition of property by CMHC from Parkview.
And, he said, "based on this, and other information, we requested permission to enter and inspect CMHC and Parkview and to review documentation regarding ownership or control of Parkview by CMHC. That request was declined."
Martins said that DLRS also requested additional information from the parties, "which they declined to provide in whole."
At that time, Martins said, "due to the lack of cooperation and the information that was available to DLRS regarding the acceleration of ownership efforts, it was determined that it was appropriate to revoke the suspension and complete the review of the application as it had been submitted and supplemented."
He also said, regarding the allegation that action to reactivate the CON is illegal, "DLRS does not agree with CMHC’s assertion."
Parkview CEO and President Randee Reynolds said the hospital had been working on a turnaround plan when the state moved up the timetable.
"We thought we had until February of next year and were making strides to turn around the financials, but we couldn't do it in six months," he said.
He said there wasn't enough time to get DLRS the financial information it wanted "in the context in which they asked for it, and it just jammed us up."
However, Reynolds said, "I think we now know what the state is looking for" and Parkview and CMHC will work toward gathering that information. Once that's done, "I think Central Maine will certainly apply again. That is what the end game is anyway."
In the meantime, the hospitals will continue working together as they have for years.
"This doesn't change our relationship" with CMHC, Reynolds said, which has been helping Parkview with backroom services. "That has certainly helped us financially. Everything is still good on that side," he said.
Judith Meyer, Sun Journal managing editor/days, contributed to this report.