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April 9, 2021

Central Maine Healthcare CEO Brickman announces retirement

a smiling white man with white hair and glasses in a blue suit stands in a hospital corridor Photo / Tim Greenway Jeff Brickman, CEO of Central Maine Healthcare, announced Thursday he will retire in September. Brickman is a 2020 Mainebiz Business Leader of the Year.

Jeffrey L. Brickman, who led Central Maine Healthcare out of a major financial crisis, announced he will retire in September after five years as president and CEO of the Lewiston-based health care system.

Steven G. Littleson, senior vice president of operations and president of Central Maine Medical Center, will become interim president on July 19, the board announced. 

Littleson will fill the position during the search for a new president and CEO, and Brickman, who is 65, will continue as an advisor to the board and Littleson, the release said.

“The board deeply appreciates Jeff’s service to CMH and celebrates this decision with him,” Dev Culver, CMH board chair, said. "Jeff has built a strong team of leaders during his tenure at CMH. The board has confidence in Steve and the leadership team’s ability to guide CMH through this period of change and to ensure the sustainability of CMH’s mission to our community."

Lewiston-based Central Maine Healthcare is the state's third-largest health care system after Portland-based Maine Health and Brewer-based Northern Light. It has hospitals in Lewiston, Rumford and Bridgton, as well as the Topsham Care Center, which opened in 2018, and employs more than 3,000.

Brickman, a Mainebiz 2020 Business Leader of the Year, took the job in September 2016, when CMH was losing $2 million to $3 million a month; he weathered no-confidence votes from doctors at the system’s three hospitals (Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston, Rumford and Bridgton hospitals), 27% staff turnover, a group of Bridgton residents lobbying for the hospital to be sold, just to name a few challenges.

When he first started at CMH, the system had to go through more than two years of "retrenching, rebalancing," Brickman told Mainebiz last year. But more recently, the system began “some of the most exciting, transformative work that’s been seen in generations for our community."

Two white-haired men talk to another white-haired man with his back to the camera. all three are wearing expensive winter coats at they're in an indoor construction site.
Photo / Maureen Milliken
Central Maine Healthcare CEO Jeff Brickman, right, and U.S. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, at the health care system's under construction Lewiston urgent care center in February 2020, talk to David Bateman of Batemant Partners LLC. Brickman announced this week he will retire in September.

Positioned for the future

“Jeff has positioned the CMH organization well for the future and has guided us through some extraordinary times," said Deborah Dunlap Avasthi, past board chair. "He leaves a foundation of excellence that will pay dividends for years to come."

In the past two years, physician turnover dropped to 4%, Bridgton and Rumford hospitals went from patient safety Leapfrog “C” ratings to five consecutive “A” ratings; the system received national safety and quality accreditations in orthopedics, advanced primary stroke, rehabilitation medicine, bariatric surgery, among others.

Central Maine Heart and Vascular Institute, on the Lewiston hospital campus, was named one of the nation’s 50 top heart hospitals by IBM/Watson; Topsham Care Center and Maine Urgent Care Center opened in Topsham; Lewiston’s Maine Urgent Care opened in March 2020; partnerships were forged with Spectrum Healthcare, Quest Diagnostics, Shields Healthcare, New England Cancer Specialists and others.

And in October, the system broke ground on a $38 million cancer center on its Lewiston campus.

“As we’ve stabilized our workforce, stabilized our clinical staff, opened up access to our programs and our practices, we’ve made significant investments that we’ll continue to make this coming year," Brickman said last year. “All we are doing in our growth is meeting the community where they want to be met for services that they have been asking us to provide.”

Brickman is retiring after 41 years in health care, the last five at CMH. Between now and July 19, "CMH will focus on closing out many of the unprecedented challenges of the global pandemic and finalizing strategic plans that provide both short- and long-term direction and continuity for the future," the release said.

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