Photo courtesy Mid Coast-Parkview Health

BRUNSWICK — The merger between Brunswick’s Mid Coast-Parkview Health and MaineHealth has been delayed by the regulatory process, according to hospital officials.  

The Brunswick hospital announced its merger with MaineHealth, a health care group with more than a dozen hospitals and medical offices stretching across the state and into New Hampshire, in February 2019 and hoped to be fully integrated by Jan. 1, 2020. 

“At this time, we are awaiting reviews by the Maine Attorney General’s Office and the Federal Trade Commission,” said Judith Kelsh, senior director of marketing communications for Mid Coast Parkview. “Those conversations are ongoing and progressing well, but it has become clear that our merger date will extend beyond the original target.” 

The delay is not surprising, she said, given the “complexities” of joining two health care systems.

Last week, the Maine Department of Health and Human Services issued a Certificate of Need for the proposed merger.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Certificate of Need (CON) laws regulate the establishment or expansion of health care facilities in a given area to help control health care costs by restricting duplicative services and determining whether the expenditures meet a community need. 

“Obtaining a CON represents a significant step forward in the process of obtaining regulatory approval for Mid Coast–Parkview Health to fully integrate with MaineHealth,” Kelsh said in an email. 

At the hospital’s annual meeting Jan. 9, corporators will be asked to approve the merger, pending regulatory approval, she said. They expect the merger will occur within 30 days of said regulatory approval, but Kelsh did not say when they expect that to be. 

The hospital will remain Mid Coast Hospital. 

Boards from both hospitals voted for the merger in June, a move that Mid Coast CEO Lois Skillings said will offer more resources and lower costs for patients in a rapidly changing healthcare system. 

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

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

None of the 2,000 employees will lose their jobs when they join with the approximately 19,000 employees of MaineHealth, she said, and some people may be moved for more centralized services, but all doctors and clinical staff will stay local. A board member will have a seat on the MaineHealth board.

In February, Skillings 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.

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.

Skillings did not disclose the overall cost of the merger.

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 sale agreement. 

That merger was hurried and financially-driven with a focus on “healing healthcare in our own community,” Skillings said, while the merger with MaineHealth, which was initiated by Mid Coast-Parkview, is more about technology, resources and the long term view of maintaining care.

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