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Upward expansion begins at Maine Medical Center in Portland

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Upward expansion begins at Maine Medical Center in Portland

PORTLAND — A $40 million expansion at Maine Medical Center has won approval from the state and preliminary work has begun.

The Certificate of Need Unit, a division of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, announced its approval Jan. 10 of the hospital's plan to expand its surgical facilities upward, by constructing a 30,000-square-foot glass-walled addition atop the campus' existing Leon L. Bean Building.

If all goes according to plan, the addition will be completed in 2015, according to Matt Paul, the hospital's director of communications.

The addition, which will be built on the lower of the Bean Building's two roofs, will create five new operating rooms, 20 perioperative spaces for patient prep and recovery, and more.

Maine Med performs about a third of all in-patient surgeries in the state and nearly half of all "interventional cardiology" procedures. The operating rooms run at a "utilization rate of up to 94 percent," according to Paul, which means that elective surgeries are sometimes bumped to make room for emergency surgeries.

The new space should alleviate scheduling conflicts, he said.

Plans for the addition were introduced to the city Planning Board last June. Representatives from the hospital also met with neighborhood leaders to discuss the plans.

"With the all-glass enclosure, people were concerned about light pollution," Paul said. "We had to demonstrate through computer modeling and discussions with architects that it's not going to be a light-polluted area."

Rosanne Graef, president of the West End Neighborhood Association, agreed that several area neighborhood groups were included in discussions with the hospital. Graef said that the expansion would have been an issue with residents if it increased the hospital's footprint, but an upward expansion didn't cause alarm.

"I haven't heard any concerns," Graef said. "People are pretty comfortable with it."

During the first week of February, construction crews began preliminary work on the roof of the Bean building in anticipation of the state's approval, Paul said.

Maine Medical Center's original building opened in 1874 as Maine General Hospital, and is still used by administrative staff. The Leon L. Bean Building opened in 1985.

Today, the hospital is Maine's largest, with 637 beds and 6,500 employees.

Ben McCanna can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or bmccanna@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @BenMcCanna.