AUGUSTA — The award of Business of the Year to MaineGeneral Health in 2013 is the second time a non-profit entity has received it. In fact, it’s essentially the same organization. The Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce honored the hospital’s parent organization as business of the year in 1990 when it was known as Kennebec Valley Health.

This time is a little different.

The honor recognizes the recent completion of a new community hospital in north Augusta adjacent to both Interstate 95 exit 113 and the Harold Alfond Center for Cancer Care, an outpatient arm of MaineGeneral Medical Center that opened in 2007.

“The reason the selection committee and the board selected MaineGeneral Health is because of the huge impact on the economy of the construction project alone and the fact that it is a new, state-of-the-art, $312 million facility that will be transformative to the community,” said Peter Thompson, president of the Chamber.

In announcing the award, the Chamber highlighted the hospital’s Imagine campaign, which envisioned and then helped to finance the new hospital.

“We want to be here for our community,” said MaineGeneral CEO Chuck Hays, in a recent interview. “What we’re here for is our community care. We have set out on a path, we have the facilities and we need to continue on that path, making sure we’re the top in the nation.”

The hospital carried through its commitment to use Maine firms and local contractors, some of whom banded together to take on such a large project.

“Our overall subcontractor number was about $172 million,” Hays said, adding that 97 percent of the contractors used were from Maine. An average of 600 workers a month were on site for the 24-month construction period of the 640,000-square-foot hospital, which includes two towers of patient rooms as well as office suites for several medical practices.

Excavation at the site began in August 2011, and doors to the 192-bed, private-room hospital opened on Nov. 9. The opening coincided with the closing of the hospital on East Chestnut Street in Augusta and the end of in-patient operations at the hospital’s Thayer Center for Health in Waterville.

The hospital has 261 volunteers, and more than 100 pitched in to help the hospital during a series of pre-opening events to show off the building to the public as well as preparing for the patient move.

“When you can pull off a complex patient move like we did without even a little hiccup, it just shows what we can do when we’re focused,” Hays said. “I think we’ve got the people here that can really move this organization forward.”

The hospital offers a number of amenities, such as a sleeper sofa in the patient rooms for family, valet parking at the main entrance for patients and visitors and a cafeteria offering a view of the rolling hills between the hospital and the cancer center. Valets, clad in red and black jackets, hand off visitors and patients to blue-jacketed volunteers who escort them to their destinations.

“The patients enjoy the couch as much as the families,” Hays said. “We find them curled up with a book on the couch. Many of them enjoy the sun coming in, sitting on the couch with a book instead of being in bed.”

Since the move, more than 40 people a day have ridden the Kennebec Explorer bus between the hospital’s facilities in Waterville and Augusta, an effort to keep patients and families connected.

The Chamber is also recognizing the hospital for achieving the rank of “top performer on key quality measures” from the Joint Commission, a hospital accrediting body. That rank was achieved while MaineGeneral had two in-patient facilities.

“They recognize who’s got the top quality metrics in the country,” Hays said.

Hays said the Joint Commission accreditation is accepted by the state and by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Evaluators from the Joint Commission will be back checking on the operational quality of the new hospital within the first 90 days of operation, Hays said.

The new hospital has proven a draw for other organizations across the country who might be looking at erecting a new hospital and want to benefit from MaineGeneral’s experience. Many visitors toured the facility prior to its opening, and some of those tours have continued.

“We had people come in from Hawaii, people from California, South Carolina, more before we opened up because they knew we wouldn’t give them much attention once we opened up,” Hays said.

The hospital also has received an award from The Advisory Board in Washington, D.C., as one of the top 20 healthcare organizations nationwide for employee engagement. That resulted from employee responses to a survey.

Hays has been chamber president and has recently agreed to fill in as treasurer, a position he’s held previously. He was the recipient of the chamber’s 2011 Business Person of the Year award, and will be accepting the Business of the Year award on behalf of the hospital at the Jan. 24, 2014, banquet at the Augusta Civic Center. He said the hospital’s board, senior directors and representatives from staff will also be present.

In the meantime, the hospital organization has an on-going construction project — a $10 million improvement at the Thayer Center for Health in Waterville.Betty Adams — 621-5631[email protected]Twitter: @betadams

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