Central Maine Healthcare board backs CEO

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LEWISTON — Despite no-confidence votes at all three of its hospitals, Central Maine Healthcare’s board of directors wants CEO Jeff Brickman to stay put.

In a memo sent to employees Wednesday, board Chairwoman Deborah Dunlap Avasthi said the board voted Tuesday night to affirm its support of both Brickman and his plans for the hospital system.

Board members believe Brickman is needed.

“The board’s action is guided by our fiduciary responsibility to CMH and its mission, meaning that it is our responsibility as board members to act in the best long-term interests of CMH including ensuring that it remains financially viable,” Avasthi wrote.

She said the board also agreed to add more doctors to the board and to allow seats for the chiefs of staff of Bridgton Hospital, Rumford Hospital and Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston. It also agreed to create a joint council composed of senior leadership, board members and hospital medical staff in an effort to improve communication among those groups.

“We believe these are significant changes providing the medical staff substantial input into governance of the system,” the memo read. “In addition, the board will continue our engagement with an independent consulting physician to monitor and update the board on physician feedback.”

Avasthi said the board respects the feedback it has received.

“We have heard the concerns and frustration voiced by some,” she wrote. “We recognize that this has been a tumultuous time. We know that these concerns are voiced out of dedication to your work, your patients and your hospital.”

She added: “We also recognize that it is a difficult time in health care, particularly for community hospitals. We must adapt to ensure the long-term viability of the system and that means change — sometimes difficult change.”

The nonprofit Central Maine Healthcare owns Bridgton Hospital, Rumford Hospital, CMMC and a collection of medical practices in 15 communities. With about 4,000 workers, the hospital system is one of the largest employers in the area.

Brickman was named chief executive officer two years ago. He has made no secret of the system’s financial problems, or of the need to make changes.

Staffers throughout the hospital system have said they recognize the need for change and to save money, but they dislike Brickman’s management style — which they consider harsh — and they are concerned about ongoing financial problems and cuts in services.

The Bridgton Hospital medical staff issued a vote of no confidence in Brickman two weeks ago. Rumford Hospital medical staff voted no confidence last week. CMMC medical staff voted no confidence Monday.

Medical staff typically includes doctors, nurse practitioners and physician assistants.

In the two-page memo provided to the Sun Journal by the hospital system, Avasthi emphasized more than once that the board heard the staff’s frustrations.

“Jeff Brickman shares our concerns about healing the institution, and has committed to doing his best to leading an effort to heal,” she wrote.

She did not say whether the board vote to keep Brickman was unanimous. A spokeswoman for the hospital system declined to provide the vote count.

In their joint statement released earlier this week, Avasthi and Brickman had pointed out that CMMC’s no-confidence vote was not unanimous, noting, “importantly, it reflects a divided medical staff.”

Under the plan outlined in Wednesday’s memo, the board will increase to 16 members from 11. Three seats will be held by doctors, up from one. The three hospitals’ chiefs of staff will get seats.

A joint council will also form to improve communication among medical staff, board members and senior leadership “on important matters.”

The changes required the board to amend its bylaws.

“Thanks to your efforts, we have already accomplished a great deal,” Avasthi said in the memo. “We remain committed to our continued progress as we work to improve trust across the system.”

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CMH Board Statement by sunjournal on Scribd

Jeff Brickman, CEO of Central Maine Healthcare in Lewiston, stands outside the flagship hospital in 2016. (Sun Journal file photo)

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