CMMC votes against Central Maine Healthcare leader

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

UPDATE: Central Maine Healthcare leaders will ‘carefully consider’ no-confidence vote

LEWISTON — Medical staff at all three Central Maine Healthcare hospitals have now said they have no confidence in CEO Jeff Brickman.

Staff at Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston, one of the largest hospitals in the state, issued their no-confidence vote Monday evening. According to one staff member who asked to remain anonymous, the vote was 100-66, with a few people abstaining.

It is the last of the system’s three hospitals to vote against Brickman. Bridgton Hospital medical staff voted no confidence two weeks ago and Rumford Hospital medical staff voted no confidence last week.

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

A Central Maine Healthcare spokeswoman said system officials would have no comment Monday night but may issue a statement Tuesday.

Brickman was named CEO of the hospital system two years ago. He replaced Peter Chalke, who retired after 33 years at Central Maine Healthcare, 14 years as CEO.

Brickman 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 votes are symbolic, meant to convey the staffs’ unhappiness to the Central Maine Healthcare board of directors and urge it to do something.

Such no-confidence votes are highly unusual in Maine hospitals, according to one expert.

The Sun Journal obtained a memo that CMHC board Chairwoman Deborah Dunlap Avasthi sent to CMHC employees on Friday, just days after the Bridgton and Rumford votes. In the memo, she tells staff that the board “heard clearly and is taking swift steps to address” concerns.

“Our overarching objective is stabilization, in order for us to achieve our mission of providing the highest quality care to the populations we serve,” she wrote, adding later, “We apologize that many of our employees, providers, patients and community members have experienced discontent with the institution and concern for its future.”

She said board members have met with the chief of the medical staff for CMMC, Bridgton and Rumford hospitals, as well as other providers. She said the board also asked an independent consulting physician to meet with nearly 50 medical providers over two days to learn more about their concerns.

“We will work to restore trust, improve collaboration and maintain communication,” she wrote. “As we move forward we ask for your support, patience and continued commitment.”

Avasthi said the board will move quickly to develop plans to address staff members’ concerns, but she did not provide more detail about the board’s next steps or how, exactly, it will address concerns.

Central Maine Healthcare’s spokeswoman declined to comment on the memo, saying she could not discuss internal communications.

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Text of the memo sent to Central Maine Healthcare employees by board chairwoman Deborah Dunlap Avasthi last week:

To: Our Central Maine Healthcare Community

From: Deb Dunlap Avasthi, Chair, Central Maine Healthcare Board of Directors

Date: July 27, 2018

Recent events within our organization have brought to the attention of the Central Maine Healthcare (CMH) Board of Directors important concerns raised by our Medical Staff — concerns that the Board has heard clearly and is taking swift steps to address. Our overarching objective is stabilization, in order for us to achieve our mission of providing the highest quality care to the populations we serve. We want all stakeholders to have a voice and role in achieving this objective. To that end, the Board of Directors met with the Medical Staff Chief of Central Maine Medical Center, Bridgton Hospital and Rumford Hospital, as well as various other providers. In addition, the Board engaged an independent consulting physician to meet with a broad cross-section of medical providers to learn firsthand of their concerns and thoughts. This process allowed for nearly 50 providers to be interviewed from across the system over two days. The information and perspectives gathered were shared directly with the Board. While there is need to continue to listen, gather more information and further the dialogue, the Board and Senior Leadership wish to convey the following at this time:

• We have heard the concerns of many internal and external stakeholders and are committed to working hard to address them.

• We apologize that many of our employees, providers, patients and community members have experienced discontent with the institution and concern for its future.

• We care deeply about all of our stakeholders, their experience and concerns, as well as our ability to continue to provide quality healthcare services to our patients and our communities.

• We strongly affirm that there are no plans to close either Bridgton Hospital or Rumford Hospital.

• We are committed to a vision of strategic growth in services, excellent quality care and improved patient access, through partnerships, high performance and financial stability.

All healthcare organizations are facing formidable challenges, particularly in Maine; CMH is no exception.

During this time it is vitally important that we remain focused on our mission to provide the best possible healthcare throughout the region.

Going forward we will need your help. We will move quickly to develop plans to address the concerns we heard and are committed to engaging all levels of our organization, as well as our communities, in the process. We will work to restore trust, improve collaboration and maintain communication. As we move forward we ask for your support, patience and continued commitment.

Helping You Answer Questions About CMH

A message from CMH Senior Leadership

Recent news reports about Central Maine Healthcare (CMH) are understandably leaving patients and community members with a number of questions. It is important that every CMH team member has answers and feels comfortable addressing some of the most frequently asked questions.

Please read the following and use this information to help everyone in the communities we serve better understand what is and is not happening across the system. While these will not address every question you have or may receive, the answers should help quiet the rumor mill and restore confidence in what we all know is a high-quality healthcare system.

As more information becomes available about developments within CMH, we will share it with you. Thank you for your continued commitment to our patients and communities.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Bridgton or Rumford Hospital closing?

• No. Bridgton and Rumford Hospitals are NOT closing.

Why are doctors leaving?

• Providers leave for a number of personal and professional reasons.

• We regret the loss of any provider.

• We have hired a number of talented physicians and continue to recruit support staff for our hospitals and CMMG practices.

Why did the providers at BH and RH vote “No Confidence” in the CEO?

• In voting “No Confidence” they are expressing frustration and disagreement with CMH leadership on a number of issues.

• CMH senior leaders are working directly with providers at all CMH hospitals and practices to address provider concerns.

Why is CMH undergoing so much change?

• All of healthcare is undergoing a lot of change and uncertainty, particularly in Maine.

• Health systems must be able to adapt to the changing needs of their communities and financial realities.

• CMH is no exception.

Is CMH (hospitals/practices) going to be OK?

• Yes. The leadership of CMH is taking the necessary steps to ensure that we are in a position to provide quality care to our communities well into the future.

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