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December 24, 2019

With DHHS approval, MaineHealth, Mid Coast-Parkview move closer to merger

File photo Lois Skillings, president and CEO of Mid Coast-Parkview Health in Brunswick, told Mainebiz that the certificate of need issued Monday is a "milestone" in the system's merger with MaineHealth.

Two of the state’s health care systems, MaineHealth and Mid Coast-Parkview Health, moved closer yesterday to completing their planned merger.

The Maine Department of Health and Human Services on Monday issued a certificate of need, a key step for the merger, the CEOs of both systems told Mainebiz late yesterday afternoon.

A certificate of need is legally required for the acquisition, expansion or development of most health care facilities in Maine. On Tuesday morning, DHHS had not yet made the certificate approval public and did not respond to a reporter’s query, but the department’s preliminary analysis had recommended approval on Nov. 11.

MaineHealth, the state’s largest health care system, and Mid Coast-Parkview, which operates 93-bed Mid Coast Hospital in Brunswick, applied for the certificate in August. Six months earlier, Mid Coast-Parkview had floated the idea, and the boards of both systems approved a merger proposal in June.

On Monday, Midcoast-Parkview President and CEO Lois Skillings called the certificate approval “a very positive step forward.”

“We’ve crossed a big milestone today,” she said.

When announcing the merger proposal in February, Skillings explained that integrating with MaineHealth was a strategic move in response to the changing economics of health care. While Mid Coast-Parkview was in good financial shape, she said, a merger would provide the scale necessary to meet increasing demands in areas such as information technology, telemedicine and purchasing of medical products.

On Monday, she reiterated that strategy, saying, “This is really about creating a sustainable model of health care for the region, now and in the future.”

The Brunswick system explored the pros and cons of joining MaineHealth earlier this year in a process that included public forums and input from over 700 employees, volunteers, patients, community members and others.

Discussion during the process resulted in a pledge from MaineHealth to honor restrictions for previously donated funds for use in the Mid Coast-Parkview service area. In addition, the merger plan calls for implementing a joint electronic medical record system and maintaining a local board to oversee care quality, provider credentialing, local philanthropy and community relations.

Those promises are still in effect, Skillings said. “Every commitment MaineHealth has made they’ve kept.”

MaineHealth CEO Bill Caron, a 2019 Mainebiz Business Leader of the Year, credited the public input, the employees of both systems and Skillings herself for the progress of the merger. “This has been a very good process, and we are getting favorable results,” he told Mainebiz.

The merger has plenty of precedent. Midcoast-Parkview has been clinically affiliated with MaineHealth and its flagship 637-bed hospital, Maine Medical Center in Portland, for more than 25 years. And Midcoast-Parkview itself is the result of a 2015 merger between two rival Brunswick hospital systems, Mid Coast Health Services and Parkview Adventist Medical Center.

The current merger is not a done deal, however, and Caron noted that “we still have steps to take.”

The merger plan must still receive approval from the corporators of Mid Coast-Parkview, who are scheduled to meet Jan. 9. In addition, federal and state regulators have to give the agreement anti-trust clearance.

If the deal receives those green lights, it could then be completed within a month, Caron said.

The certificate approval comes less than a week after another merger, between Mayo Regional Hospital in Dover-Foxcroft and Northern Light Health, received a second, required approval by the Mayo board. That deal, however, has met with resistance from a group of local residents and the town of Cambridge, which are suing to stop the merger.

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