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October 3, 2016 On the record

Maine Medical Center head Richard Petersen talks $512M expansion

Photo / Tim Greenway Richard Petersen, president and CEO of Maine Medical Center, will oversee a $512 million expansion, largest in the hospital's history.

Maine Medical Center, led by President and CEO Richard Petersen, recently announced a $512 million expansion that will include a 270,000-square-foot building, 128 private rooms, 20 universal procedure rooms, parking garage and expanded outpatient services. The hospital's total number of beds — 637 — will remain the same.

The project, which requires permitting and regulatory approval, is expected to be complete in five years. Hospital officials say the expansion is necessary to accommodate rapidly escalating demand for more critical health care services, and maintain a high quality of care. Admissions at Maine Medical Center have jumped by 11% to 40,193 in the past five years. And the hospital is seeing more acutely-ill patients than it has in the past.

“This is a giant leap forward in committing to the promise to be centered on the patient by improving the quality of the care that we deliver,” says Petersen. He recently spoke with Mainebiz about the project.

Mainebiz: Why is this expansion necessary?

Richard Petersen: We've seen growth in more complex admissions like open-heart procedures and neurosurgery. Plus we're Maine's only certified Level One Trauma Center, so we get the more severe trauma cases. Then there's Maine's aging population. The older you are, the more you use the health care system.

MB: What economic impact will the project have?

RP: We haven't fully quantified that. It will help boost the economy as it relates to anyone who is involved in construction. Historically, we've been good at using Maine-based contractors and vendors. We will also grow our staff. We're adding new square footage and you need people to maintain that. And if we end up putting in more specialty care beds, the staffing ratios for those beds are higher, so that would require new positions. This past year we added 318 new positions — twice what we budgeted for — because volume [of admissions] was higher than expected.

MB: Do you intend to add new services or practice areas?

RP: We're going through planning work now to determine that.

MB: Why is this project important for Maine Med's financial health?

RP: The strategy here was not to bolster our margin or grow our revenues. But if you provide a better patient experience, improve the healing and caring process and create an environment where physicians and caregivers want to work, it helps build a foundation for financial success. The expansion will help us remain efficient and effective. We have bottlenecks that slow down patients getting the right levels of care. Those workarounds can also be very costly. For instance, if you're moving patients from bed to bed, you're cleaning rooms more often and you can put those resources to better use. You're also looking at efficiencies for things like new HVAC and lighting which helps reduce operating expenses.

MB: Maine Med has earmarked $50 million of the project for outpatient care. What will that entail?

RP: The vast majority of what we're doing is co-locating specialties and primary care practices in greater Portland. Our goal is to bring more types of services together for the convenience of the patient. So if we have a neurosurgery and an orthopedic practice in a single building, we might bring in imaging services to have one-stop shopping. And we're looking at building “primary care plus” locations with support services like behavioral healthcare, that provide a more holistic way of taking care of the patient.

MB: You've said this won't be the hospital's last expansion. What's next? And when?

RP: It could be 15 years or more. In an ideal world we'd have 100% private rooms tomorrow. But we can't, given the financial realities. We want to do it in a way that it doesn't negatively impact our ability to deliver on our mission.

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