The Mid Coast-Parkview Health campus in Brunswick. (Courtesy photo)

BRUNSWICK — Officials behind Brunswick-based Mid Coast-Parkview Health and MaineHealth, a health care group with more than a dozen hospitals and medical offices stretching across Maine and into New Hampshire, voted last week to merge. The move will open up more resources and reduce costs for patients, according to Mid Coast CEO Lois Skillings.  

The decision comes four months after Mid Coast-Parkview first announced it would explore a possible merger. Hospital officials met with more than 700 staff members, stakeholders and community members, something that Skillings said helped influence negotiations with MaineHealth and helped reinforce the group’s intent to stay as localized as possible. 

The regulatory process could take between six months to a year to get off the ground, but the goal is to integrate by Jan. 1, 2020, she said.  

Patients will see little change at the beginning, but hopefully, in about a year they will convert to MaineHealth’s electronic health records, a single platform for all services, according to Skillings. 

This should help patients as well as doctors, she said, especially as the two organizations have maintained a close working relationship for the past 20 years, with many patients receiving services from both Mid Coast-Parkview Health and MaineHealth facilities.  

None of Mid Coast’s 2,000 employees will lose their jobs when they join with the approximately 19,000 employees of MaineHealth, Skillings said, something that was very important to Mid Coast-Parkview officials during the merger negotiations. Some people may be relocated to centralize services, but all doctors and clinical staff will stay local. 

The organization will continue its local philanthropy, oversee credentialing of staff, be involved in the budgeting and strategic planning process and a board member will have a seat on the MaineHealth board, Skillings said.  

Making this decision now, while the hospital is strong financially and clinically allows it to “navigate from a position of strength,” something that Skillings said “makes all the sense in the world.”  

In rapidly changing field becoming increasingly reliant on new technology, “the idea of staying independent indefinitely is pretty unlikely,” she said.  

In February, she told The Times Record that “We value excellence over independence,” and added that health care is not a business but a complex integrated delivery system that could be aided by harnessing the power of a larger health system. Most important is that patients have the care they need now and in the future. 

“I look at is as the best of both worlds,” she said Monday.  

This is the second merger in just five years for Mid Coast, which became Mid Coast-Parkview Health after it merged with rival Parkview Adventist Medical Center in 2015 as part of a nearly $8 million agreement. That merger was hurried and financially-driven, with a focus on “healing health care in our own community,” Skillings said. The merger with MaineHealth, which was initiated by Mid Coast-Parkview, is more about sharing technology, resources and the long term view of maintaining care.  

Other factors weighed during merger talks included increased regulation and governmental policies, declining health care reimbursements and increases in patient care for which Mid Coast isn’t compensated. 

“Last year we provided $24.6 million in free and uncompensated care,” Skillings said in February. 

Mid Coast, an independent health care network, is also facing pressure from competition in the health care industry. That includes a new diagnostic imaging center at Brunswick Landing, a cancer treatment facility opened at the Topsham Fair Mall in Topsham and a new urgent care facility is under construction on Bath Road in Brunswick — none of which are affiliated with Mid Coast or MaineHealth. 

Mid Coast-Parkview Health employs 2,000 people with more than 200 active medical staff and services a population of 75,000. The 93-bed Mid Coast Hospital admitted 5,454 people in 2018, had 438,331 outpatient visits through Mid Coast Medical Group. The system also encompasses CHANS Home Health and Hospice and Mid Coast Senior Health. 

Comparatively, MaineHealth, the state’s largest employer, includes 19,000 employees and 11 community hospitals in a dozen counties in Maine and New Hampshire, including Portland’s Maine Medical Center, the state’s largest hospital. 

“At MaineHealth, our Maine-based hospital organizations have all come together as one so we can put the strength of the entire system behind our efforts to deliver exceptional healthcare in each community we serve,” Bill Caron, CEO of MaineHealth said in a press release. “We are excited that our colleagues at Mid Coast-Parkview Health have engaged in a thoughtful, inclusive process and have reached a decision that will allow us to put our resources behind their work in the communities they serve.” 

Caron said in February that Mid Coast-Parkview could save money with the merger. 

“We haven’t gone through the exercise of calculating the financial benefits but there are a number of financial benefits for the Mid Coast-Parkview system in that because of our size, there are economies of scale ranging from group purchasing to some back office supports that we provide — so there will be a financial benefit to them,” he said. Skillings added that the savings will help them maintain their focus as a low-cost, local system. She did not disclose the overall cost of the merger. 

With the boards in agreement, the two organizations will pursue necessary legal due diligence and regulatory approvals, as well as a vote by the Mid Coast-Parkview Health corporators and a final, formal plan of merger.  

With the changing landscape and Mid Coast-Parkview’s position of strength, “I’m confident it’s the right time,” Skillings said.  

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