by Bruce Hardina
Coastal Journal Editor & Publisher
BRUNSWICK — On February 21, Central Maine Healthcare (CMHC) of Lewiston revealed in a press release that they had asked the Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to suspend the review of their pending Certificate of Need (CON) Application to acquire Parkview Adventist Medical Center in Brunswick, following a suggestion from DHHS that CMHC may be required to do a feasibility study. For the past several years, CMHC has played a management role in its relationship with Parkview as opposed to an ownership one, which the two had agreed to pursue with the CON. According to Chuck Gill, Vice President for Public Affairs at CMHC and their official public statement, “Parkview still expects to become part of Central Maine Healthcare in the future.”
“Other papers in the state reported that a panel was going to recommend against CMHC’s application,” said Kenneth Albert, director of the Division of Licensing and Regulatory Services for DHHS, which oversees the Certificate of Need program. “There is no panel. There is a unit that makes a recommendation to the commissioner, Mary C. Mayhew, who then makes the final decision. We could not make a recommendation to approve the application because it did not include enough information about the economics of the plan. Normally, an economic feasibility study is submitted along with the application. In this case, it was not. If the applicant (CMHC) wants us to reconsider the application and we receive the information necessary to reconsider within the 12-month time period, we certainly will take another look at it.”
When asked to explain what his division meant by an economic feasibility study, Albert said, “We look at everything – how it will effect the surrounding area’s economy, how it will effect the other local hospital, whether the services are needed in the area or already offered at nearby facilities, and whether the applicant is willing and capable to do what is required and in the best interest of the region’s citizens.”
Although many people in the southern midcoast area would like to see this acquisition take place, many others – including and especially Midcoast Health Services (MCHS) – would not.
MCHS had also expressed an interest in acquiring Parkview. They produced a plan that indicated the acquisition would decrease medical expenses for area residents and businesses by nearly $25 million annually. This would be done by maximizing efficiency and eliminating redundant services in the community, according to the plan. The plan also stated that two hospitals serving a community of this size cannot be efficient and cannot in the long term provide the community with highly skilled medical professionals. There simply isn’t enough work to retain them.
In an interview with Steven Trockman, Director of Community Relations and Outreach for Mid Coast Health Services, when I asked about what their plans would be now that CMHS suspended their application, he said Mid Coast had absolutely no plans to or interest in forcing Parkview to become part of their organization.
“We would be willing to talk with anyone in our community, including Parkview, about a solution to addressing exploding healthcare costs. We do not, however, believe it is appropriate, nor do we support a larger organization from outside our community to get involved here, in an effort to solve their own financial problems,” said Trockman, referring to CMHC. Trockman went on to explain that we must find these efficiencies to bring our costs down.
“[The] right sizing of healthcare, the way it is delivered now,” said Trockman, “is much more outpatient based and much more wellness- and prevention-based, versus sick-care, hospital-based care.”
“We believe that this is one of the most important decisions that the CON staff will ever make,” said Lois Skillins, CEO of MCHS, “and we are thankful that this issue is getting such a thorough review. We see this as good news. Mid Coast’s position has not changed. We prefer a community solution to bring about the goals of improving the health of our community, delivering outstanding healthcare, and doing all we can to support our local economy by lowering healthcare costs.”
For now, the status quo will continue. CMHC will continue to manage Parkview, and has said they will make no changes. The community will have to wait and see when and if CMHS provides the state with the necessary information to reconsider their application to bring Parkview into their fold.