BRUNSWICK – More than 300 people gathered at a daylong public hearing Wednesday to offer their opinions on Central Maine Healthcare’s controversial proposal to acquire Parkview Adventist Hospital.

Supporters of the proposal said the acquisition would allow Parkview to remain an acute-care hospital and resist Mid Coast Hospital’s bid to partner with Parkview, which is losing money.

Others portrayed Lewiston-based Central Maine Healthcare as an interloper trying to expand into the Brunswick area and said the offer by Mid Coast Hospital of Brunswick offers better savings.

“A local hospital owned by an outside entity does not provide good care for our local citizens,” said Terry Olsen of Durham, who said she would rather support the services of a combined Parkview-Mid Coast hospital.

Parkview employees waved banners saying “Take me to Parkview” and lined the driveway of the Knights of Columbus building in Brunswick, cheering and clapping as people arrived for the hearing.

“Patients should have a choice of where they can go. Mid Coast wants to eliminate their local competitor. Keep choice alive in Brunswick,” said Marsha Penhaker of Westport Island, who works as a switchboard operator at Parkview.

Central Maine Healthcare wants to make Parkview a subsidiary in its network, which includes a 250-bed hospital in Lewiston, Bridgton Hospital and Rumford Hospital.

No money would change hands, and there would be no new equipment or change of services at Parkview, whose board has voted to support the acquisition.

The state Department of Health and Human Services must scrutinize the plan’s effect on total health care expenditures, the competing demands in the area, and whether less costly alternatives are available. Wednesday’s public hearing was part of that review. The DHHS will take written comments on Central Maine Healthcare’s proposal for the next 30 days before making the final decision.

Mid Coast Hospital’s proposal is not subject to state approval because it would be a partnership rather than an acquisition.

Parkview has rebuffed the partnership proposed by its crosstown rival. Mid Coast Hospital wants to absorb Parkview and eliminate duplicative emergency departments, operating rooms and expensive testing equipment. It says its plan would save the community $24.3 million a year in overlapping health care costs.

“Just because Parkview needs Central Maine Health for financial reasons, it doesn’t address the issue of whether we need two acute care hospitals in Brunswick,” said Mid Coast Hospital Chief Financial Officer Bob McCue.

While the hearing was intended to focus only on Central Maine Healthcare’s plan, the issue of rising health care costs across Maine and the nation came up.

Officials from Bath Iron Works, one of Maine’s largest employers, spoke against Central Maine Healthcare’s plan, saying cheaper alternatives are available to consolidate care and cut costs.

Chris McCarthy, manager of integrated health services for BIW, said the shipbuilder spends about $100 million a year on health care services, most of it in the Brunswick region.

McCarthy said supporting both Parkview and Mid Coast in Brunswick burdens the residents and businesses who pay for health care. Two hospitals about four miles apart means duplicated services, empty beds and unnecessary costs, he said.

“Our concern is redundancy in the system,” said McCarthy, who suggested that any overlapping costs should be returned to the businesses and customers who pay for health care.

Ralph Perry, who has lived in Brunswick for 25 years, said, “Perhaps the best role for the state is to deny Central Maine’s (certificate of need application) and find a way for the two Brunswick hospitals to work together. It would save an enormous amount of money.”

Parkview remained adamant about its decision to partner with Central Maine Healthcare and resist any partnership with Mid Coast Hospital.

“We’ve never given a moment’s thought of selling. We have told Mid Coast ‘no’ several times over the years,” said Mike Ortel, chairman of the board of Parkview. “Parkview is here to stay. Central Maine Health is very respectful of our faith-based approach.”

The battle over Parkview is just one of several changes in the works in Maine’s health care system. Mercy Hospital of Portland is negotiating to be acquired by Steward Health Care System LLC, a for-profit hospital chain in Massachusetts.

Goodall Hospital in Sanford recently got approval to join MaineHealth, which includes Maine Medical Center in Portland and 10 other hospitals.

Staff Writer Jessica Hall can be contacted at 791-6316 or at:

[email protected]