Maine Medical Center said Tuesday it has received final state approval for its $40 million expansion, which will add five new operating rooms as well as create a special cardiac operating room for the most critically ill patients.

The cardiac hybrid operating room will better accommodate large surgical teams and support personnel. The area for patient preparation and recovery also will be improved, the hospital said.

The 40,000-square-foot expansion will help ease a space crunch at the Portland hospital. Its existing operating rooms run at a utilization rate of up to 94 percent, which is substantially higher than national averages in the mid-80s.

“Alleviating some of these capacity pressures will allow us to provide emergency interventions without having to move or delay scheduled procedures,” said Dr. Brad Cushing, chief of surgery. “People across the region have come to count on Maine Medical Center for procedures that they can’t find elsewhere in the state or even in Boston. We know our patients want to be home, so being able to treat them near their homes is important to us.”

Maine Medical Center currently has 24 operating rooms at its main Bramhall Street campus. To create the cardiac hybrid room, it will combine two existing operating rooms to make one large space – about 850 square feet – to better accommodate procedures that require large numbers of staff.

Maine Medical Center performs about one-third of all inpatient surgeries in the state and 45 percent of interventional cardiology procedures. Expanded spaces, combined with more modern design, will help the hospital meet demands for both routine and complex procedures, Maine Medical Center said.


“We are the only hospital in Maine to offer transcatheter aortic valve replacements,” said Dr. Mirle “Bud” Kellett, chief of Maine Med’s Cardiovascular Institute, referring to a heart valve repair procedure that is done on the most critical and frail patients. “The creation of a cardiac hybrid room will allow our physicians to continue this procedure and explore new procedures that are important to the future health of our state.”

The creation of the hybrid cardiac room will reduce waiting times for critically ill patients who need TAVR procedures, said Dr. David Butzel, a cardiac surgeon at Maine Med.

“These are, by definition, very, very ill patients. We need to accommodate them as soon as possible instead of them having to wait for openings,” Butzel said. “It can be very challenging for patients to potentially have to go home and wait.”

Maine Medical Center said it has yet to determine how the expansion will affect staffing and operating room scheduling. The hospital currently performs TAVR procedures three days a month, Butzel said.

The approval for the expansion came with some conditions from the Maine Department of Health and Human Services. The final approval allows the project to move forward. It is scheduled for completion in 2015.

Under the conditions imposed by the state, Maine Medical Center must report improvements in quality and outcomes for services affected by the project. It also must report operating room utilization for facilities affected by the project. The expansion also must be started within one year.


The project comes in the wake of last year’s financial struggles at the hospital.

Last year, the hospital implemented a hiring freeze after experiencing a $13.4 million operating loss for the first half of its fiscal year ending March 31. The hospital later offered voluntary early-retirement buyouts to about 400 employees.

Jessica Hall can be contacted at 791-6316 or



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