Maine Medical Center’s new oncology floors take up the entire top two floors of the new Coulombe Family Tower. The two floors are part of the hospital’s $534 million expansion and modernization project. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Cancer patients at Maine Medical Center will have private rooms and panoramic views of Portland when the hospital’s new oncology tower opens on Dec. 15.

The Coulombe Family Tower contains 64 new single-occupancy rooms, each with floor-to-ceiling windows. The tower – two floors built on top of the existing hospital – is the latest milestone of Maine Med’s sweeping, $534 million renovation and expansion project. By the time the expansion is completed in 2022, the hospital will have added 128 single-occupancy rooms.

The total number of beds will not increase from the current 637 because adding single-occupancy rooms will allow the hospital to eliminate many double rooms. About 80 percent of rooms will become single-occupancy, compared to 50 percent now.

Dr. Joel Botler, Maine Med’s chief medical officer, said single rooms offer better care to patients for a number of reasons, including easier visitation for families, better privacy and lower infection rates. Doctors can have difficult conversations with patients in a more private setting.

A patient room on the top floor of Maine Medical Center’s new oncology expansion has a commanding view of Portland. An open house at Maine Med Wednesday showcased two new floors dedicated to oncology with 64 single-patient rooms. The two floors, part of what the hospital has named the Couloumbe Family Tower, are part of its $534 million expansion and modernization project. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

“With oncology patients, sometimes unfortunately you have to have end-of-life conversations, and that is difficult to do when you are only separated from the other patient by drapes,” Botler said. Having all cancer patients in one area of the hospital will also be better for staff coordination and to make care more efficient.

“The care team – doctors, nurses, pharmacists and advanced practitioners (nurse practitioners and physician assistants) – will all be in the same place working together,” Botler said.

Maine Med President Jeffrey Sanders said that the new rooms will “significantly improve the healing environment for our oncology patients and will begin to help address some of the capacity challenges” at the hospital. While the expansion will not increase the hospital’s capacity, Maine Med has experienced problems with patient flow.

Although the hospital has 637 beds, the actual capacity is sometimes in the 580s or even lower, Maine Med officials have said, because many patients are too sick to stay in a double room.

The new tower also includes family lounges and waiting rooms and nursing stations. On the roof is the heli-pad, which will open next week. Botler said the heli-pad will have direct elevator access to the emergency department, shaving 2 1/2 minutes off patient transport time.

The next phase of the renovation will include demolishing the parking garage that fronts Congress Street, which will eventually be the site of the new entranceway and additional patient and surgical rooms.


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