AUBURN — Central Maine Healthcare CEO Jeff Brickman on Thursday teased changes soon coming to the health system, including the addition of two or three urgent care centers — one in Lewiston-Auburn — and improvements to hospital campuses.

Brickman offered few details during his speech at the Lewiston-Auburn Rotary Club’s weekly luncheon at the Village Inn. Afterward, CMH spokeswoman Kate Carlise said she couldn’t provide additional information.

“I am not free to elaborate,” she wrote in an email.

Central Maine Healthcare CEO Jeff Brickman Justin LeVett photo

During his 20-minute speech, Brickman outlined the problems facing rural hospital systems across the country and CMH in particular. He spoke about the system’s very public struggles last summer and the turnaround he believes it’s made since.

Brickman also spoke about the future of medical care and the need for health systems to develop beyond hospitals in order to survive and provide the lower-cost, high-quality care patients need.

He said the Topsham Care Center — a 50,000-square-foot facility with a lab from CMH, cancer treatment from New England Cancer Specialists, imaging from Shields Health Care Group, a specialty clinic space and adjacent CMH urgent care center — has proven in the past year to be a success.

“If you do have an urgent need, you don’t have to wait in a busy emergency department,” he said. “You get the vast majority of your care done in a low-cost setting. That model has worked well.”

So well, he said, that Central Maine Healthcare will open a new Lewiston-Auburn urgent care center later this year, with plans to open another one or two by next summer.

“We now have a model that’s working,” he said.

The announcement comes two years after CMH shut down its urgent care center in Auburn during a series of “major cost reductions.” The chief financial officer at the time, David Thompson, predicted that CMH would not go long without an urgent care facility.

“We’re not walking away from urgent care,” Thompson told the Sun Journal at the time. “We believe that urgent care is a viable model and you will probably expect within a year or so that we would redeploy or reopen urgent care, but obviously in a different location and set it up from the start in a much better manner so it would be successful. We would have done it much different, and in the future we will do it different.”

Carlisle declined to provide additional information on the coming urgent care centers, citing “business reasons.”

“We want all our partners and providers to be on the same page,” she said.

On Thursday, Brickman told the more than two dozen Rotary Club members that Central Maine Healthcare has spent the past three years investing in its campuses, but it has another five years’ worth of improvements to go.

“So you’re going to see parts of the organization that still look old. You’ll see parts of the organization that look tired. You’ll see parts of the organization that are not sufficient,” he said. “We know it and we’re working through that, and we’ll continue to make investments as we get stronger and stronger.”

Carlisle said she could not share details about any coming renovations, upgrades or construction.

Brickman also told the crowd that Central Maine Healthcare will soon standardize scheduling so patients won’t have to wait so long for visits and it plans to expand weekend and weekday hours for medical care.

“That will begin to address the large demand for health care services and to make it more convenient and to make it more responsive than the way in which we operated before,” he said.

CMH is one of the largest health systems in the state. It owns three hospitals — Rumford Hospital, Bridgton Hospital and flagship Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston — as well as a sizable collection of medical practices throughout Central and Western Maine.


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