All members of MaineHealth have voted in favor of unifying into one board to oversee the state’s largest health care network. The new governance structure will likely start in January 2019.

MaineHealth – the parent organization for Maine Medical Center, Franklin Community Health, Pen Bay Medical Center, Southern Maine Healthcare and several other community hospitals and health care systems – has been working on unifying the system for more than a year. The unification, when it’s complete, will mean that one board of trustees will ultimately make decisions instead of 10 separate, independent boards. The voting started on Nov. 2, and by Thursday, all hospital boards had voted in favor of unification.

“I think it’s fair to say we were skeptical at the start,” said Clint Boothby, chair of Franklin Community Health Network, which oversees Franklin Community Hospital in Farmington, in a release announcing the vote. “We joined MaineHealth in part because it offered a degree of local independence, and people legitimately asked, ‘Why give up more local control.'”

But Boothby said that ultimately, in a “challenging health care environment” giving MaineHealth more resources in “support of care in local communities” was the correct choice.

Local boards will not be dissolved, but will become committees of the centralized board of trustees. The proposal guarantees members at least one representative on the centralized board for the first five years.

Under the new structure, local boards will continue to formulate budgets and strategic plans, oversee quality of care and handle credentialing of physicians and others.

The new governing structure allows MaineHealth to more easily move funds from one health system to another, and also run the system more efficiently, MaineHealth officials said.

“We believe this is how we provide the best care for the 1.1 million people in the MaineHealth service area who rely on Maine Medical Center to be the place that’s there for them when they face the most serious illlnesses,” said Bill Burke, chair of the Maine Med board of trustees.

The proposal is still subject to a due diligence review by MaineHealth and its members.

The other hospital members of MaineHealth are Lincoln Health in Damariscotta and Boothbay Harbor, Waldo County General Hospital in Belfast, Stephens Memorial Hospital in Norway and Memorial Hospital in North Conway, New Hampshire. Other system providers include Maine Behavioral Healthcare, NorDx Laboratories and MaineHealth Care at Home.