Eastern Maine Healthcare System has met all of the regulatory requirements to absorb Mercy Health System of Maine into its organization, executives from the two health care providers said.

The merger will increase the total number of EMHS employees from roughly 8,000 to 11,000 and give EMHS a major presence in southern Maine, a spokeswoman said.

Both organizations issued a joint news release late Wednesday announcing that the Maine Department of Health and Human Services has issued EMHS a “certificate of need,” the final regulatory approval required to complete the merger.

“This was the last official milestone that we needed,” EMHS spokeswoman Karen Cashman said Thursday.

A certificate of need is required in Maine for the creation, expansion or acquisition of a major health care facility or organization. As the name implies, it certifies that there is a public need for the facility or organization in question.

EMHS, based in Brewer, operates eight hospitals, five emergency-transport units, a home-care and hospice organization, and nine nursing homes and retirement communities in central, eastern and northern Maine.

When the merger is completed, EMHS will add to its organization all of Portland-based Mercy Health Systems’ facilities and services, which include Mercy Hospital, Gary’s House, McAuley Residence, Mercy Recovery Center and VNA Home Health Hospice.

All of the Mercy-operated facilities will retain their existing names, policies, staff and board of directors, Cashman said.

“They will retain their local governance,” she said.

It’s possible that some administrative functions could become consolidated after the merger is completed, Cashman said, but the organization does not have any specific plans to lay off workers.

“We don’t anticipate any layoffs,” she said, “but at this point I think it’s too soon to say for certain.”

Each of the two organizations has its own strengths that would benefit the combined health care group, according to the joint statement issued Wednesday.

For instance, EMHS has cutting-edge health information technology, it said, while Mercy excels at providing outpatient and home-based care.

The decision to merge the two nonprofit health care organizations was announced in January.

Because Mercy is a Catholic health care group, the merger required approval from the Vatican. It received that approval in June.

All Mercy-operated facilities and services will retain their Catholic affiliation, the health care group said.

Mercy and EMHS planned to host a day-long celebration Friday for employees and invited guests, according to the joint news release.

“This day caps months and months of tremendous work on the part of many individuals across our organization and the state; we look forward to celebrating with our employees and others,” Mercy Health System President and CEO Eileen Skinner said in the release. “As we knew at the outset and can repeat with certainty today, EMHS is the perfect match for Mercy Health System on every level. We are eager to move forward under the strong EMHS umbrella on behalf of our patients and community.”

J. Craig Anderson can be contacted at 207-719-6390 or:

canderson@pressherald.com

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