Sunday, May 19, 2013
St. Andrews Hospital officials have postponed closing its emergency room to give surrounding communities more time to adapt to transporting patients to a new location.
Officials at the hospital in Boothbay Harbor confirmed Tuesday that they have decided not to convert the emergency room to an urgent care center until Oct. 1. Plans had called for making the transition on April 1.
St. Andrews' urgent care center will treat minor injuries and illnesses, and other services such as physical and occupational therapy, lab work and diagnostic imaging will also be provided.
The decision gives nearby communities including Southport and Boothbay time to come up with additional revenue to pay Boothbay Region Ambulance Service to transport patients greater distances, according to Scott Shott, a spokesman for St. Andrews.
The closest hospital emergency room would be at Miles Memorial Hospital in Damariscotta -- a 25-minute drive from St. Andrews, which is located on the tip of a peninsula.
"We felt that by delaying the closing it would demonstrate our willingness to work with the community on developing a sustainable health care system," said Peter Mundy, chairman of the board of trustees of the hospital's parent corporation, Lincoln County Healthcare.
Mundy said trustees proposed closing the St. Andrews emergency room in July.
That announcement did not go over well with the ambulance service or town officials, who have relied on St. Andrews for decades. A community task force was formed to try to persuade the hospital to reverse the decision.
Mundy said the decision to delay the emergency-room closure was reached Monday after trustees met repeatedly with task force members. Hospital employees were briefed Tuesday.
Mundy said the emergency room still must be closed. There are not enough patients to justify keeping St. Andrews' emergency room open, Shott said.
St. Andrews' emergency room sees an average of 0.6 patients from midnight to 6 a.m. each day, compared with 2.8 patients at Miles Memorial Hospital.
"We are seeing one patient every other night," Shott said. "We have to make the right financial decisions."
He said the number of patients turning to St. Andrews for care has been steadily declining for decades.
St. Andrews will no longer be a licensed hospital after the emergency room closes and state regulations mandate that ambulances must transport patients to licensed hospitals open 24 hours a day.
The new urgent care center will be open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. for most of the year, and until 8 p.m. during the summer tourist season. What will be done with the rest of the hospital is uncertain.
"St. Andrews is not closing. It just won't be open 24 hours a day," Shott said.
Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at: