December 18, 2012

Empty beds may signal too many hospitals

A low occupancy rate in some of Maine's acute care centers raises questions about their roles.

By Jessica Hall
Staff Writer

While states such as Massachusetts and California are grappling with issues of hospital overcrowding, Maine has the opposite problem.

The bulk of Maine's hospitals are below the national average for occupancy rates, which raises questions about whether the state needs all 36 of its acute care centers.

Hospital officials, however, said the number of beds filled is not a complete gauge of hospital effectiveness.

With advances in technology, hospitals are performing more outpatient procedures intended to keep people from having to check into hospitals for care in the first place.

The issue is timely, with the ongoing battle over Parkview Adventist Medical Center in Brunswick, which had an average occupancy rate of 24.6 percent for its 55 beds in 2011. That compares to the national average of 66 percent, according to the American Hospital Association.

Parkview Adventist's rival, Mid Coast Hospital, wants to combine the two hospitals, eliminate duplicated services and save an estimated $24.3 million a year.

Central Maine Healthcare, which is also bidding to acquire Parkview, wants to keep Parkview Adventist operating and add it to its network, which includes Central Maine Medical Center, Rumford Hospital and Bridgton Hospital.

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