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January 11, 2019

SMHC plans $34M construction project at Sanford medical center

Courtesy / Southern Maine Health Care Southern Maine Health Care will invest $34 million in construction and upgrades of its medical center in Sanford.

Southern Maine Health Care plans to invest $34 million in construction and upgrades of the SMHC Medical Center in Sanford.

The plan, which was announced on Jan. 9, includes construction of a new, modern long-term care center for older adults, establishment of a short-stay, inpatient behavioral health care unit and general upgrades, according to a news release.

The Sanford center was formerly known as Goodall Hospital.

The investment is expected to significantly enhance and expand the scope of health service in Sanford and deliver a sustained economic impact in York County with the addition of jobs.

The projects are in addition to more than $10 million already invested in the facility’s technology, operations and outpatient services since the merger to form Southern Maine Health Care in 2014.

"Ninety years ago, Sanford opened the doors of its own community hospital. Today, we are proud to announce that we will continue that tradition of caring for our community with a series of projects intended to re-invigorate this campus, create new jobs and provide much-needed health services," Southern Maine Health Care President Nathan Howell said in the release.

Southern Maine Health Care is part of the MaineHealth system.

Projects include a $23 million, 94-bed eldercare center designed to provide nursing, long-term and memory care services; an $11 million, short-stay behavioral health care unit that will be relocated from Biddeford to Sanford and more than doubling its capacity, and general campus improvements currently underway and expected to continue into the spring.

Eldercare center

The eldercare project will be made possible through a partnership between Portland developer Sandy River Co. and North Country Associates, a Lewiston operator and manager of older adult care centers throughout Maine.

Pending regulatory approvals and construction schedules, the center will open in fall 2020. It will replace the existing Newton Center located on the Sanford campus and will be managed by North Country Associates. The center will include memory care services and more private rooms than any other center of its kind in Maine, said Southern Maine Health Care Chief Operating Officer Patsy Aprile.

"The center will be organized into communities depending on the level of care residents need – one each with its own designated dining room, activity and green space as well as a host of other amenities designed to ensure a comfortable and positive environment for residents as well as families and visitors."

Behavorial health

The plan includes relocating the existing 12-bed adult behavioral health care unit in Biddeford to Sanford and expanding the number of adult beds to 30 with potential for further growth. This part of the project is expected to generate more than 50 new jobs and provide critically needed bed capacity for York County patients who are experiencing short-term crises with common diagnoses such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and substance use disorders. The project is expected to be completed in 2020.

Behavioral health patients “often present at local emergency departments where they may wait extended periods of time for a bed, and in the process cause a domino-effect of delays for other patients requiring emergency health services,” Dr. Robert McCarley said in the release. Over the last year, at SMHC’s two emergency rooms, behavioral health cases have increased 20% with now more than 250 cases presenting each month. This has extended ED wait time for emergency medical patients.

Similar to how it operates today in Biddeford, the proposed behavioral health care unit will be staffed by Maine Behavioral Healthcare.

Campus improvements

The plan also includes technology upgrades and modernization of its appearance. A new MRI machine was installed in December and enhancements include improved lighting, sidewalk replacements and curb repairs, sealcoating in the parking lot, landscaping and new carpeting.

Sanford Mayor Thomas Cote told the Journal Tribune he’s encouraged by SMHC’s plans for the Sanford campus.

“The addition of the 24/7 behavioral health unit brings a new life to the facility and offers many good paying jobs for our residents,” said Cote.

Howell, who was himself born at Goodall Hospital, came on as Southern Maine Health Care CEO in May 2018. He replaced Ed McGeachey, who retired after leading SMHC for the last 30 years. SMHC is York County's largest health care system and the largest employer home-based in York County, with more than 2,200 employees.

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