Franklin Community Health Network, which includes Farmington-based Franklin Memorial Hospital, got state approval Wednesday to merge with Portland-based MaineHealth.
The move will be effective Oct. 1 and will make the Franklin County network the 13th member of the MaineHealth system, which includes Portland’s Maine Medical Center.
Franklin Community ended the fiscal year July 1 showing a loss of $7.28 million for the year, its first losing year in more than a decade.
“I think Franklin has been proactive in realizing they are going to require a partner in the future,” said Andrea Patstone, senior vice president of system development.
The idea to join with a larger network was first publicly discussed during Franklin Community Health Network’s business meeting with the community last year. In December, Franklin Community and MaineHealth announced the proposed merger, pending approval from the state Department of Health and Human Services.
“MaineHealth and Franklin Community Health Network share the same values and mission, and by joining MaineHealth, we will be able to partner with the system and other members to improve healthcare in our community,” said Rebecca Arsenault, president and CEO of Franklin Community Health Network.
Arsenault said at the time that many small hospitals are merging with larger networks because of reductions in government reimbursement, increased costs for health care, increased regulation and a need to improve the quality of care. Arsenault also said charity care provided by the hospital had increased by $2 million.
Patstone said small hospitals across the country are under financial pressure and by merging, they become more sustainable.
She said there will be few changes to the health network before Oct. 1, and overall there will be few changes that patients will notice.
She said the primary difference will be that MaineHealth will give its newest member more administrative and clinical support, look for economies of scale and broaden what specialties the patients have access to.
“It’s hard to say what changes will occur and when,” Patsone said. “Over time we’ll be integrating human resources, finance and information technology.”
Jill Gray, spokeswoman for Franklin Community Health Network, said the hospital will change its logo and marketing material to match MaineHealth, but most of the impact of the combination will not jump out at the average patient.
Before joining MaineHealth, Franklin Memorial Hospital had worked with other members and affiliates of MaineHealth. Patients used Maine Medical Center for cardiology and cardiovascular care; neonatal care was provided at the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital at Maine Medical Center and MaineGeneral Health was used for cancer treatment.
“Our health system has enjoyed a long-standing clinical collaboration with Franklin and its providers,” MaineHealth President Bill Caron said in a news release. Caron said MaineHealth has a longstanding clinical collaboration with Franklin,
“We look forward to working together to care for the greater Franklin County community,” Caron said. “They won’t notice anything.”