Lois Skillings

Lois Skillings

After the recent public hearing regarding Central Maine Healthcare’s application to take ownership of Parkview Adventist Medical Center, I wish to provide the community with my perspective.

As a registered nurse and health care leader here for more than 30 years, I feel strongly about doing what is right for our community. I believe that if the state denies this application by Central Maine Healthcare, then those of us who live and work in the Mid-coast region will have an opportunity to see a new generation of leadership consider how best to provide a more sustainable health care system that fully meets our community’s needs.

When the hospitals of Bath and Brunswick were brought together years ago to create Mid Coast Hospital, it was a difficult and an emotional issue. However, that bold decision resulted in one of Maine’s highest quality, most cost-effective community hospitals.

Today, our community is once again being called upon to consider a serious, sustainable solution for health care.

In this time of drastic health care reform, the challenge is: How do we, as a community, maintain a strong, local, full-service community hospital?

If we want to keep health care close to home and provide access to critical care and specialty services, we must find ways to consolidate, or we risk weakening the high quality care our community deserves.

A Lewiston-based organization’s attempt to take ownership of Parkview here in Brunswick puts our local health care system at risk.

Central Maine Healthcare has tagged this as a simple transfer of ownership, analogous to their recent hospital ownership transfers in Bridgton and Rumford, but the situation here is very different. In those other rural communities, there isn’t a second hospital or a viable alternative that could save the community $24 million every year in health care costs.

The last thing we need, while recovering from the economic loss of the Brunswick Naval Air Station, is to shift health care services from our region to Lewiston-Auburn. All over, health care revenues are shrinking because of the economy, decreased reimbursement from payers and declining utilization, yet the cost to maintain the health care infrastructure — hospital beds, emergency rooms, intensive care units — is going up. The fact is, we cannot afford to let a health care system in Lewiston siphon our region’s population as a solution for their shrinking revenues.

Unlike other industries, competition in health care does not lead to lower costs. Over the last decade, our state has seen how empty hospital beds and excess infrastructure has driven up costs.

In Maine, we pay almost 25 percent more than the national average for health care, and in the United States we pay twice what many other countries pay. We’ve had two hospitals in our town for over half a century, and during that time nine independent studies and commissions have concluded that our region is too small to sustain duplicative hospital services.

Mid Coast believes it is time to get serious about cost reductions. If our community embraces the idea that we can consolidate expensive, acutecare services, this will achieve a more sustainable, local health care system. We also believe it is essential to turn our attention to maintaining health, promoting wellness and tackling disease prevention.

Health care services could continue at both facilities, and local jobs can be preserved.

Many of us are ready to heal the divide that exists between Mid Coast and Parkview Adventist Medical Center. It is unfortunate that an open discussion between the two, about how we might come together to best serve our community, has not transpired. My attempts to speak directly with the decision makers at Parkview have been misrepresented and misunderstood.

Given the past, the chasm between our two organizations has been deepened by emotion. It is my greatest hope that we can put this past behind us.

I want our community to know that Mid Coast values and respects the faith-based mission of Parkview Adventist Medical Center. In fact, we want this mission to continue. The ministry of healing of the Seventh-day Adventist Church has served as a model for promoting health and wellness in our community and across the country.

All of us at Mid Coast respect the employees at Parkview. They are our friends and neighbors who dedicate their lives to important work. Our desire has never been to “extinguish” Parkview, but to work together to provide the very best care for the Bath-Brunswick-Topsham region.

We estimate that if our local health care providers were to collaborate, our community would see savings of $24.3 million every year, or a quarter of a billion dollars in the next decade by eliminating duplicative costs.

Local businesses, municipalities and individuals need lower health care costs.

Our community needs a strong local health care system.

These are the reasons why Mid Coast feels that the state should deny Central Maine Healthcare’s application to own Parkview Adventist Medical Center in Brunswick.

LOIS SKILLINGS, RN, is president and CEO of Mid Coast Health Services.

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