Central Maine Healthcare wants to create a $14 million outpatient surgery center in Topsham.

The 20,000-square-foot center, proposed for Topsham Fair Mall Road, would have two operating rooms and four procedure rooms and would handle cancer, orthopedics, gastroenterology, urology, ear, nose and throat, and breast issues. Such surgical centers allow patients to receive routine surgeries and treatments without being admitted to a hospital and to return home the same day.

It will require Certificate of Need approval from the Maine Department of Health and Human Services. CMHC spokeswoman Kate Carlisle said the system plans to file its application soon.

CMHC believes the surgical center is necessary to expand the range of specialty services in Topsham and to provide “local access to high quality, low-cost surgical setting,” according to the letter of intent it sent to the state this month.

This is the second major project proposed by CMHC in six months. In November, it announced plans to open a $35 million cancer center next to its flagship hospital, Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston. The health system won state approval for that project in April.

CMHC, like all health systems in Maine, has suffered financial problems in the wake of COVID-19. In April, it furloughed 300 workers, or about 10% of its staff. It also temporarily consolidated several medical practices or reduced their hours, and senior executives, including the CEO, took temporary pay cuts and other leaders deferred 5% to 10% of their pay.

Carlise said the project “has been in the works for some time.” In a statement released Monday, CMHC said no resources have been or will be diverted from its response to the pandemic or from care at its other facilities.

“Like hospitals throughout Maine and the nation, we have been focused on treating COVID-19 patients and dealing with the impact of the state shutdown,” CEO Jeff Brickman said in that statement. “We look forward to returning to normal operations as soon as it is safe to do so. At the same time, we are committed to moving ahead with our plans to serve Maine people with high-quality, convenient and cost-effective healthcare services.”

Carlisle also said the building project will be financed by a private developer, much like the cancer center project. If approved, the developer will pay to build the surgical center and CMHC will lease it over a number of years. The health system will also have to pay for equipment and other items needed to open.

The $14 million price tag is CMHC’s projected cost, including $9 million in leasing costs over the life of the lease and $5 million to purchase equipment.

Carlisle said there will initially be a “low-to-no capital outlay.”

According to CMHC, there are 16 outpatient surgical centers in Maine, including the Central Maine Orthopedics Ambulatory Surgical Center in Auburn, which is partially owned my CMHC. The Topsham center would be the first for the Midcoast, according to Carlisle.


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