Officials say merged Brunswick hospitals are stronger; Lewiston medical center disagrees

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BRUNSWICK — Officials from Parkview and Mid Coast hospitals asked people at an Aug. 18 Topsham community discussion to pray for approval of Parkview’s proposed reorganization and its merger with Mid Coast.

Two days later their prayers were answered.

U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Peter Cary on Thursday, Aug. 20, approved the sale of much of Parkview’s property to Mid Coast Health Services. Former Parkview Adventist Medical Center President Randee Reynolds said he signed closing documents that evening.

Cary’s authorization came despite a competing offer of $8 million from Central Maine Health Care of Lewiston.

According to court filings, Mid Coast paid $3.8 million – or about 15 cents for every dollar owed to Parkview’s creditors – and forgave repayment of a nearly $600,000 advance provided to Parkview at the outset of the bankruptcy proceeding.

Mid Coast also pledged $3 million in capital improvements over three years, agreed to adopt some of Parkview’s faith-based principles, and will pay $1.4 million and provide two seats on its board of directors to the Northern New England Conference of Seventh-Day Adventists.

At a press conference on Friday, Parkview Chairman Robert Cundiff said accepting the terms of the sale represented “a unified decision … with Mid Coast.”

“The Seventh-Day Adventist Church has 28 fundamental beliefs,” he said. “Belief 22, ‘Christian Behavior’ … (says) to treat bodies and pursue health and wellness is something that actually honors God.”

It became clear, he said, that “Parkview could no longer accomplish this mission as a stand-alone hospital.”

Although Parkview filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection June 16 – with $25 million in liabilities and $18.5 million in assets – recent court documents show executives from both hospitals were privately working on the concept of a merger more than a year ago, in May 2014.

Previously, “we were navigating alone,” Mid Coast President and CEO Lois Skillings said Friday. “Now our unified vision will allow us to preserve and strengthen health care for generations to come.”

Parkview’s Reynolds, who will now serve as vice president of community health and integration at Mid Coast, said the transition of the Parkview campus to a primary-care and outpatient center will continue, with Mid Coast moving some outpatient practices to the Parkview campus.

Parkview closed its emergency and acute-care units June 18.

Parkview will also be covered by Mid Coast’s hospital license, Reynolds said, ending a dispute with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services over Parkview’s ability to claim Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements on its old license.

Skillings said that all 190 full- and part-time employees of Parkview have been offered jobs by the new health-care organization.

Standing at a podium behind a new Mid Coast-Parkview insignia, she said patients are “the people who truly benefit the most from (this merger).”

But not everyone is satisfied with the court-approved sale.

Lewiston-based Central Maine Health Care, and its affiliate, Central Maine Medical Center, have repeatedly objected in court to the private sale.

CMHC made an unsuccessful bid to take over operations of Parkview in 2013.

In an Aug. 14 bankruptcy court filing, attorneys for the Lewiston organization said CMHC was prepared to offer at least $6 million for Parkview.

“Such consideration is substantially higher than the consideration Mid Coast Hospital proposes to pay and represents a sale price that is fair and reasonable,” they said.

They later offered $8 million, CMHC spokesman Chuck Gill told radio station WCME Friday morning.

But Cary left the decision to Parkview’s directors, who decided to proceed with the pre-packaged reorganization plan with Mid Coast.

In the court order approving the sale, attorneys for Parkview said the hospital determined, “in its business judgment, that a sale of the assets to (Mid Coast) will further the faith-based mission of the Debtor, serve the interests of the … community for an integrated community health care system, and maximize the overall value and benefits to the estate for the benefit of all stakeholders.”

Gill on Friday called the decision “disappointing.”

CMHC argued in a press release that Parkview directors were given only 30 minutes, and no prior notice, to assess the competing bids.

“It’s a classic behind-the-scenes deal,” Gill said.

Referring to Mid Coast’s pledge to also pay $280,000 a year for five years to the Northern New England Conference of Seventh-Day Adventists, Gill noted much of the money involved in the deal would not go to creditors.

“The creditors are the ones that got hurt on this,” he said.

CMHC also maintains it is owed $13 million in claims, and that Parkview officials who began negotiating a merger with Mid Coast in 2014 at the time were on CMHC’s payroll.

Although Gill said CMHC was not currently planning to take further action, he said “we certainly reserve the rights.”

But back at Parkview, the message Friday was one of unity.

“We are not just partners, we are one,” Mid Coast Chairwoman Barbara Reinertsen said.

Mid Coast has also pledged to add two board members from the Northern New England Conference of Seventh-Day Adventists, and retain faith-based practices, like chaplains, at the Parkview campus.

Mid Coast spokesman Steven Trockman also said Friday that Mid Coast Hospital would also be starting a new chaplaincy practice at its main campus.  “We want people to have the same access” they used to at Parkview, he said.

“Midcoast-Parkview Health is our new reality,” Reinertsen said.

Walter Wuthmann can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or Follow Walter on Twitter: @wwuthmann.

Parkview Adventist Medical Center Chairman Robert Cundiff announces bankruptcy court approval of a sale of the Brunswick hospital to Mid Coast Health Services at a news conference Friday, Aug. 21, at Parkview. Cundiff is joined by Mid Coast President Lois Skillings, left, former Parkview President Randee Reynolds, and Mid Coast Chairwoman Barbara Reinertsen.

The new Mid Coast-Parkview Health logo.

Brunswick/Harpswell reporter for The Forecaster. Bowdoin College grad, San Francisco Bay Area native. Follow for municipal, school, community, and environmental news from the Midcoast.