To be under one MaineHealth umbrella

Pen Bay Medical Center, Waldo County General Hospital, related offices to unify under MaineHealth

Posted:  Wednesday, December 6, 2017 - 2:15pm
For several years, the unification of two Penobscot Bay Area Midcoast hospitals with the Portland-based MaineHealth nonprofit has been underway. Today, it is official. The board overseeing Coastal Healthcare Alliance voted to unify with MaineHealth, which means that all the member organizations will operate under one board of trustees.

“The Board of Trustees of Coastal Healthcare Alliance on Tuesday voted to move forward with a proposal for the organization to join with other members of the MaineHealth system to form a single financial and operating model, a change in governance that has been discussed for the past year as a ‘unification’ of the healthcare system’s members,” according to a news release from the alliance.

Coastal Healthcare Alliance comprises Waldo County General Hospital in Belfast, Pen Bay Medical Center, in Rockport, and their affiliated healthcare services.

The model is subject to a due diligence review by MaineHealth and its member organizations, the release said.

“Assuming the other members of MaineHealth give their approval in coming days and there are no unexpected findings in the due diligence process, Coastal Healthcare Alliance and the nine other members of MaineHealth will be governed by a single Board of Trustees beginning in January 2019,” the release said. 

“Although not every member of our Board of Trustees favored moving forward with unification at this time, a clear majority of our Board has voted to move forward with the reorganization of MaineHealth,” said Lee Woodward, Jr., chairman of the Coastal Healthcare Alliance board, in the release. “This has been a challenging and important decision for our board members and with the decision behind us, we will now move ahead together in order to best serve our communities in Knox and Waldo counties.”

The unification will have all 10 member organizations operating under a single financial structure overseen by one board.
“This will allow resources to flow more freely across the system to better support care in local communities,” the release said.
The release said:
“Currently, each MaineHealth member must financially stand on its own, generating the revenue necessary to pay for the services in that particular local community. In recent years, however, many community hospitals have come under mounting financial pressure. This has been caused in part by the migration of more complex procedures to major medical centers, which are able to leverage new technologies employed by highly specialized providers.

“Across the MaineHealth system this has created uneven financial performance among member hospitals, threatening the ability of some community hospitals to continue to deliver needed care. Meanwhile, Maine Medical Center in Portland, the system’s tertiary care hospital, has seen growth in volume and in its bottom line as complex p rocedures have migrated there.” 

Local Midcoast board members and others raised concerns about ceding control to MaineHealth. 

“We had a number of concerns with the first draft of the unification proposal that had to be addressed before a majority of the Board was willing to adopt this significant change,” said Woodward. “We wanted to make sure the system board could not take away services arbitrarily and we wanted to know that the small hospitals would continue to have a voice. Several modifications were made to the initial unification proposal, which created a more favorable result for the smaller hospitals in the MaineHealth system.”

A local board is to form budgets and strategic plans, and maintain oversight of care quality. 

The new model guarantees Coastal Healthcare Alliance two representatives on the system board for the first five years. 

Woodward said in the release: “From the moment Coastal Healthcare Alliance was formed, the Board has been unanimous in its opinion that MaineHealth is by far the finest healthcare delivery system in the State of Maine. The quality and economic performance are unsurpassed. The unification issue boiled down to a debate over the proper governance model. With that issue now behind us, all Coastal Healthcare Alliance Trustees have pledged to move forward with the im plementation of the unified governance model and will do everything possible to insure the continued deliver y of quality healthcare in the Midcoast.”